In the autumn of 1966 a group of students at the Yale Drama School was given an unusual assignment: they were asked to adapt the text of Hamlet, reducing the number of characters to five or six and cutting the play down to forty-five minutes. The project was assigned by a New York theatrical producer who had been given a one-year visiting appointment at the drama school and asked to teach a course in play production to second- and third-year students majoring in directing. The assignment was not entirely curricular: the students were given to understand that one of their efforts would be chosen for a production in New York cast with professional actors. The students went to work and, in time, one of the adaptations was indeed brought to the New York stage.

The play opened in the winter of 1967 and on the whole it was an unconventional offering. In the first scene Hamlet was discovered naked,...


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