A group of Amherst students played “Telephone” with Shakespeare

Imagine playing “Telephone” with Shakespeare.

To mix things up theatrically, but to lessen the burden on actors during the end-of-semester crunch, Amherst student theater group The Green Room has concocted an original performance in which they reconstruct Hamlet from the recollections of faculty and staff.

Writer-director David Green ’19E explains: “The actual idea for Project Omelette sprung from one of our team hearing of a theater company in Kentucky asking their non-theater friends to recall what they could from the plot of Romeo and Juliet, and the company performing plays based on the results.”

Green Room members approached faculty and staff and gave each person one minute to recite everything they could recall about Hamlet.

A group of Amherst students played “Telephone” with Shakespeare

“In most cases, the last time they had interacted with Hamlet was high school,” said Green. “So, needless to say, the responses were scattered and foggy.”

Which is exactly what they wanted.

“I read it in a high school English class—probably my senior year, so roughly 30 years ago— and I saw the 1990 Mel Gibson movie version,” said Robert Benedetto, math professor. Green approached him at the weekly Math/Statistics Lunch in Valentine. His summary is largely based on fresher memories of Tom Stoppard’s The 15-Minute Hamlet and the TV show Sons of Anarchy, whose showrunner has said is loosely based on the Shakespeare play. “For a rapid-fire recall, I think I did a little better than I would have expected,” Benedetto said.

A group of Amherst students played “Telephone” with Shakespeare

What follows are excerpts from his and others’ recollections, which were adapted into skits for the recent performances outside the Greenway residence halls.

“So Hamlet is a play about a guy who had a complicated relationship with his father, and after his father dies, a lot of his issues with his father come to the surface.”

“So when what’s-his-name scrapes Hamlet, Hamlet gets pissed, grabs his sword and runs him through. Meanwhile, his mom drinks the poisoned cup, not realizing it was poisoned, but the uncle doesn’t do anything about it, because he’s likehe can’t reveal it without revealing that he knows it’s poison. And then everybody dies.”

A group of Amherst students played “Telephone” with Shakespeare

“Does he kill himself? I don’t know. I would think so, that would make sense, if it was a tragedy, right? Yeah. Isn’t there like a war going on also? I don’t know, I think that was Romeo and Juliet. They all have war in them.”

“Everybody has killed everybody, and Hamlet has died, then what’s-his-name arrivesit starts with an Fwith his soldiers, and he looks around the stage with all these dead people, and he says, ‘What happened here?’ It’s a great understatementyou’ve got to know people laughed.”

A group of Amherst students played “Telephone” with Shakespeare

“I think the father tells him that the uncle kills him. No, I think he suspects it’s his uncle. Thendoesn’t the uncle marry the mother? Yes, soon after. I just remember a pick going into somebody’s ear at some point. But that may have been the movie.”

“Yeah, [Ophelia] drowned herself. Walked into a pond. We don’t know if she drowned herself or if she was just taking a bath.”

A group of Amherst students played “Telephone” with Shakespeare

The Green Room is a student-run group that sponsors several theatrical projects on campus each year, ranging from staged readings to play competitions to weekly playwriting workshops. It’s not named after David Green, but rather the theater lounge familiar to performers.