A play by Caridad Svich
- Full length in one act. Words and music by Caridad Svich.
- Note: Author’s lyrics may be re-set by another composer.
- Cast: 4 women, 3 men, and chorus (various).
- Running time: approx 90 minutes
Shakespeare’s Ophelia rises up out of the water dreaming of Pop-Tarts and other sweet things. She finds herself in a neo-Elizabethan Appalachian setting where Gertrude runs a brothel, Hamlet is called a Rude Boy, and nothing is what it seems. In this mirrored world of word-scraps and cold sex, Ophelia cuts a new path for herself.
Script History: This script was developed at Powerhouse Theater/New York Stage and Film, and later at New Georges, and Red Bull Theater in New York City. It was presented at Baruch Performing Arts Center in New York City under the direction of Debbie Saivetz in April 2004, with original music composed by the author with Michael Escamilla and Michael Gladis. The principal roles were played by: Heather Starkel (Ophelia), Michael Gladis (Rude Boy). Alfredo Narciso (H), Chris Wells (G), Alex Oliver (G), Kristi Casey (Gertrude), Alissa Ford (Mina). Design team was comprised of Steve O’Shea, Jessica Gaffney, and Ariadne Condos. Choreography was by Tracy Bersley, stage manager was Pamela Salling.
The play received its professional premiere in a site-responsive production by Woodshed Collective at McCarren Park Pool in July 2008. It was directed by Teddy Bergman; the set design was by Gabe Evansohn; the costume design was by Jessica Pabst; dance/movement choreography by Nicola Bullock; fight choreography by Adam Rihacek, musical direction by Emily Fishbaine; and original music composed by The Jones Street Boys. Ellen Shadburn was the stage manager, and the line producer for Woodshed Collective was Stephen Squibb. The production publicist was Richard Kornberg of Richard Kornberg & Associates. The cast was as follows Pepper Binkley (Ophelia), Dan Cozzens (Rude Boy), Grace McLean (R.), Preston G. Martin (G.), Ben Beckley (H.), Kate Benson (Gertrude), Jocelyn Kuritsky (Mina) and The Jones Street Boys (Chorus of Ophelias)
The play received its US midwest premiere at Trap Door Theatre in Chicago, Illinois under Kate Hendrickson’s direction in 2009.
At the amateur level, the play has also received production at Macalester College in Minnesota in 2011 under Beth Cleary’s direction with original music by Mike Croswell.
Publication and Media Archive: A previous version of this text is published in Performing the Here and Now: An Introduction to Contemporary Theater and Performance (Kendall/Hunt Publishing, 2005), and also in the independent literary journal CallReview (Issue #2, 2004); a first edition of the text was made available from NoPassport Press for the duration of the run at McCarren Park Pool and updated after the opening in a second edition published with new song lyrics also from NoPassport Press. The current version of the script may be purchased online on amazon.com, barnes and noble.com, and more. The Barnes and Noble link is http://search.barnesandnoble.com/12-Ophelias/Caridad-Svich/e/9780615249186/?itm=2&USRI=caridad+svich
An audio/visual multimedia feature of the Woodshed Collective production is archived by The New York Times.
Views and Reviews: TWELVE OPHELIAS by Caridad Svich bydramachicks
Photos from the Macalester College production.
Photos from the Chico State production
preview article: 12 OPHELIAS takes to the stage at UNO (Nov 9, 2011)
preview article: Mix of music and drama
Press quotes and Industry Responses to the play:
“Ophelia returns from drowning to pursue again what eluded her in her fleeting lifetime. The provocative nature of that plot device, in tandem with a culturally identifiable Appalachian-American spirit conspire with rock and Roll to make a romp in a dry swimming pool in Williamsburg into a magical summer’s eve. Caridad Svich, The Woodshed Collective, The Jones Street Boys and McCarren pool collectively sweep the audience into a fantasia of song, story, sex and summer thrills. The music and poetry combine into a frappe of pleasure. It’s a risky design that requires more artfulness than the playful nature of the evening reveal, but it lies under the surface. It’s smart, sly and witty. Congratulations to all.” John Gould Rubin, Co-Artistic Director/Executive Producer, LAByrinth Theater Company, NY on the premiere (2008)
“Caridad Svich has written an ingenious adaptation of Hamlet. She resurrects Ophelia from her drowning pool. Freed from madness of one kind, Ophelia pursues her yearning for a still resistant Hamlet in a contemporary Appalachia. The Woodshed Collective has set the play site-specifically in Greenpoint’s McCarren Pool with an original score by the Jones Street Boys played live. Watching Ophelia’s agonized attempt to seduce her reluctant Rude Boy against a backdrop of the ruins of the massive WPA arch of the empty pool is magical. At one point the ornate dome of an Eastern Orthodox church in the distance was framed in the arch as the mists of twilight swirled around it, the incredible harmonica of the band wailed in a bluesy moan, and the cadences of broken desire flowed through Ophelia, and I thought, this is beautiful.” Matthew Maguire, Co-Artistic Director, Creation Productions and Chair of Fordham University Dept of Theatre, NY on the premiere (2008)
“In Woodshed Collective’s ambitious production, Caridad Svich’s 12 Ophelias is practically suffuse with ghosts, much in the same way that Shakespeare’s original Hamlet asks the title character—and audiences—to believe that he’s acting upon his dead father’s dictates. In the brittle lyrical landscape Svich constructs, whisking us off to the afterlife for Ophelia, Shakespeare’s most famous suicide hardly seems out of character. …12 Ophelias may seem like a deconstructed masterstroke. In many ways, it is.” Leonard Jacobs in New York Press (2008)
“A whimsical riff on Hamlet which imagines an afterlife for Elsinore’s unluckiest lass. A twisted take on the tragedy.” Charles Isherwood in The New York Times; & multimedia (audio/visual) feature archived in the NYTimes
“A refreshing production that is genuinely, wonderfully theatrical which does justice to Caridad Svich’s lyrical play. A perfect evening.” Saviana Stanescu in nytheatre.com (2008)
“Caridad Svich relocates the drowned, tragic ingénue of Hamlet to Appalachia, where she adopts a more feminist stance toward the melancholy Dane. The playwright has a lovely way with old stories – her looping, just shy-of-purple poetry lets her remake the Greeks and Shakespeare with panache.” Helen Shaw in Time Out/NY (2008)
“In Woodshed Collective’s spirited production Caridad Svich’s cracked language is like ‘sweet bells jangled out of tune.'” Alexis Soloski in Village Voice on Twelve Ophelias (2008)
It is precisely in this watery manner that Ophelia comes back to life in Caridad Svich’s intriguing play 12 Ophelias: A Play With Broken Songs, now in director Kate Hendrickson’s fiercely sexual and expressionistic production at Trap Door Theatre, one of Chicago’s most radical dramatic outposts. Far more surreal and twisted than Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” 12 Ophelias is a reminder of just how morphable and mysterious Shakespeare’s original remains.–Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times (2009)
[3 1/ stars] Svich envisions a purgatorial revisiting of the depths of pain and heights of passion. She suspends the cause and accelerates the effect. And she weaves this parallel world with lovely lyricism that is both aesthetically beguiling and emotionally ravaging. 12 Ophelias: A Play With Broken Songs is one such extraordinary paradigm shift that should not be missed. — Venus Zarris, Chicago Stage (2009)
[Recommended Production] Caridad Svich’s expressionist play 12 Ophelias imagines Ophelia’s return from the waters that drowned her….The writing itself is sumptuous, Elizabethan language blending seamlessly with modern English and punctuated with sharp doses of African-American vernacular from Ophelia and Gertrude, cast as black and therefore a double minority despite their endless assertions to the contrary. 12 Ophelias at heart is all about power: “You fit into other people’s needs, you get left out, you see?” The script is provocative and often extremely gratifying (what’s more fun than seeing a play we know inside and out turned on its head?).–Monica Westin, New City Stage (Chicago) (2009)