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November 10, 2015 > To be, or not to be: Hamlet comes to Milpitas

To be, or not to be: Hamlet comes to Milpitas

By Robbie Finley

Shakespeare fans, take heed! Shakespeare On Tour will once again visit the Milpitas Library to produce a condensed version of the legendary play Hamlet on Saturday, November 14.

The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival (SF Shakes) presents the classic tale of revenge and corruption, which features a cast of five and runs around an hour, followed by a question and answer session with the actors. Every year, they produce a shortened version of a Shakespeare play for schools, libraries, etc., and go on tour with it, said Shoshana Francis, a supervising librarian for the Milpitas Library. (We want to) bring the works of Shakespeare alive to our users, especially teens being introduced to his plays in school, Francis explained.

The tour kicked off a couple of weeks ago and has been busy traveling throughout the state, bringing Shakespeare to people of all ages. The story of Hamlet is pretty powerful, said Steve Muterspaugh, the tours director and SF Shakes associate artistic director. The play will have a unique interactive component to it, in which the audience gets to make a major decision about how the play will unfold. This is not just a passive thing, (the audience) is going to be involved in this, Muterspaugh said. The tour has both a male and female actor that can play the role of Hamlet, and the audience is asked to draw a card to pick which will star in the performance. The humanity Hamlet grapples with should not be restricted by gender lines. Anyone can be Hamlet or Ophelia, Muterspaugh explained. The actors will also select two audience members for participation in the play.

SF Shakes popular Shakespeare On Tour has been entertaining students throughout the state since 1998. Each season (which runs from mid-October until mid-April each year), the groups professional actors visit an estimated 200 locations and perform for 30,000 students. Any venue can book the show, with fees varying based on number of performances and proximity. Our librarians are always on the lookout for good library-friendly programs and performances. One of them found out about the Shakespeare On Tour program, contacted them, found that they were within our price range, and booked it! Francis said, adding, At our old building, the performance would take place outside on the grass, but our new building, which opened in 2009, has a great auditorium with a stage that is perfect for performances.

The Milpitas Library has seen anywhere from 50 to 150 students at past performances. Many local teachers make attendance an extra credit assignment, (so) it tends towards a higher number, Francis said. Though one of the purposes of the performances is to expose students to the works of Shakespeare, all are welcome to come out and enjoy the show, because there is nothing like seeing Shakespeares plays live. Shakespeare wrote for the stage, not for reading. Its important that (the audience) sees the words in action to fully appreciate his genius. It also enables those who may not be able to afford tickets to a Shakespeare play to get an opportunity to see the text come to life, free of charge, Francis said.

The Milpitas Library hopes that East Bay residents will come out and witness firsthand one of ShakespeareÕs most popular plays. For more information, please visit or

Shakespeare On Tour: Hamlet
Saturday, Nov 14
2 p.m. Ð 4 p.m.
Milpitas Library auditorium
160 N Main St, Milpitas
(408) 262-1171

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