jeffrey carlson as hamlet

Jeffrey Carlson, I apologize.

Last year when I saw you in The Shakespeare Theatre’s production of Hamlet, I was not a fan. I know you were trying to convey Hamlet’s youth. But the flailing and whining was a bit much for me. Sure, Hamlet is young. I get it. But he also has some of the most profound, eloquent speeches in the English language. I just couldn’t see him as a petulant teenager. It was too, too silly-ed flesh.

The lady doth protest too much, methinks. I saw your Hamlet again last night in the park, and I was blown away. It was beautiful. I laughed. I cried. The words were alive! O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I! I am sorry I ever disliked your Hamlet. And I am sorry I will not be in town this weekend, so I cannot go see you again.

It’s a tough job, Hamlet. Everyone comes in with their own expectations for how you should play the role. And you risk standing in the shadow of other Hamlets. For me, the shadow was cast by my man Wallace Acton, who played Hamlet so beautifully at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2001. I went to see the play … oh, I think seven times? (I ushered, so it was free.)

What made your Hamlet so much more enjoyable the second time? Reduced expectations and the putting aside of the heavy shadow of my previous Wally Hamlet may have helped. There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. Maybe it was the magical setting of Carter Barron amphitheatre. Perhaps Teen Hamlet, Prince of Angst, has mellowed out a bit in the past year.

I am not sure what the difference was, but I loved your Hamlet last night. Loved it. I am a fan now. Please forgive me.

The Shakespeare Theatre Free for All continues tonight, tomorrow and Sunday in Carter Barron ampitheatre. Check here for information on how to get free tickets. If they free out, I think you can almost always get tickets at the gate; people don’t always show up.