Welcome to our Featured Play Spotlight. Shreds and Patches by Robert Wing is a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The location is a “wellness facility” for disturbed teens. Dane, our anti-hero, confronts his bullying step-father and self-centered mother with the help of his fellow patients and Dr. Osric. Will Dane be able to get through to his mother about “the king of shreds and patches” or will he be left in the dark?
The play fuses Shakespearean speech with modern dialogue, reinforcing the notion that the teens and adults speak different languages. An excellent easy-to-stage competition piece!
Why did we publish this play?
Shreds and Patches is a brand new addition to the Theatrefolk catalogue and we’re thrilled to have it on board. The play puts the story of Hamlet into a modern context while still using the original language. It’s a perfect example of how one can take the parts of a text and synthesize new meaning. And let’s not forget the awesome character challenge. I love seeing Shakespeare in a new light and this play shines the brightest bulb you can get.
Let’s hear from the author!
1. Why did you write this play?
I have the best job in the world. I am paid to introduce young minds to some of the greatest works of literature, “Hamlet” being one of them. (Though “Hamlet” is not my favorite Shakespeare play – “The Tempest” is. ) It’s my job to make Shakespeare come alive; I’ve got to really sell it to my everyday audience, my students, and I think I’m pretty good at it. Why? Because I don’t “dumb it down.” I “sherpa” my students through the challenging syntax and thematic acrobatics, but never strip away the glorious complexity of the language.
Many instructional practices and teaching guides do this, but not “Shreds.” It puts “Hamlet” in a modern context without gutting the complexity (and beauty) of the language. Yes, I take enormous liberties with who says what and in which order, but it’s still “Hamlet.” There’s enough of the original script there to give students – and audiences – a taste of Shakespeare’s incandescence. That’s why I wrote this play; I never want Shakespeare to fade away. “Shreds” is a gateway to deeper exploration and deeper appreciation of Shakespeare for my both students and audiences. The way I see it, “Shreds” is a my little attempt to keep Shakespeare alive in the classroom and on the high school stage.
2. Describe the theme in one or two sentences.
Shreds and Patches explores the traditional themes of “Hamlet” (inaction, madness, etc.) but its thematic bullseye is one that high school students really, really take to heart: parents can do enormous damage to their children.
3. What’s the most important visual for you in this play?
I love the final scene where the kids rush in to embrace Dr. Osric. Osric has stood up for them, risked everything for them, and the kids are deeply, deeply appreciative. The good doctor has restored their faith in adults and in themselves, and left them with the one thing none of them had at the beginning of the play – hope.
4. If you could give one piece of advice for those producing the play, what would it be?
In Shakespeare’s own words: “Be bloody bold and resolute.” (Of course, that’s from “Macbeth,” but it’ll do.)
5. Why is this play great for student performers?
Decades as a social worker and a public educator have taught me that the quality of a child’s life is entirely dependent upon the adults in that child’s life. Period. Parents and teachers are instrumental in developing a young person’s sense of worth. The characters is “Shreds” have nothing. They are unloved and unwanted. In popular parlance, the are “broken.” Broken children sit in high school classrooms, drama classes, and in audiences in high schools, well, everywhere. “Shreds” was written for them. Students actors are acting out their own story. I wrote “Shreds” to give them hope, hope that comes from knowing that they are not alone, that they are powerful, and that there are adults who give a damn – like me.