THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide



Subject: NY NY it's a wonderful town!!!
Date: Sat, 9 Jun 2001 13:16:31 -0700
From: "Sharyn Shipley"

Please excuse the email distribution. My show opened off Broadway yesterday and I wanted to share this note from my producer, Juan Loney of the Underground Railroad.

"Sharyn -
The show was a success! The 8:00 p.m. show sold out. We had to add a second show at 9:30 p.m. and it was about 80% full. Based on feedback last night, we are going to have two shows tonight as well, and we'll see about Sunday. Wish you were here to see it! -

Hoping the reviews are as enthusiastic!
All best,

UnderGround Railroad Productions is an African American Company in New York
The production was at the Producer's Club on June 8th 9th 10th a 8PM with a Sunday Matinee a 3PM ]

Subject: NY production
Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2001 09:02:34 -0700
From: "Sharyn Shipley"

Hi All, I'm so pleased! I just got word that "Mother's Day in the Holding Tank" will be produced by UnderGround Railroad Productions (an African American Company in New York) at the Producer's Club on June 8th 9th 10th a 8PM with a Sunday Matinee a 3PM
Don't know the cast yet but Randy Frasier is directing!

Anyone who's in the area and would like to check it out for me I have some comps.

Larry Stark's considered reaction was:
Sharyn Shipley's work is reflected in Reflections here in The Mirror.
Local Gal is makin' Waves!!!!

As old friends of The Theater Mirror know, Sharyn Shipley is an old friend of me, and we've been keeping an episodic journal of her tribulations with a big blank-verse play in the re-write stage. She just checked in with new news that old friends of The Mirror should be glad to hear. And if you're new to this part of The Mirror, what went before will come after these updates:

From: "Sharyn Shipley"
Subject: Felicity synopsis
Date: Sun, 31 Aug 1997 08:20:03 -0700

Dear Larry --
The play's changed so much, would you like a new synopsis?
Got my first call from a theatre group in LA that may want to do the play.
How's it going?
Sharyn Shipley

Here's That new synopsis:


5 Acts


COOK - 45
CLAUDIUS King of Denmark
GERTRUDE Queen of Denmark, Hamlet's mother
HAMLET Son of Gertrude and nephew to CLAUDIUS
POLONIUS lord chamberlain
OPHELIA daughter to Polonius
LAERTES son to Polonius
REYNALDO servant to Polonius
HORATIO friend to Hamlet
OSRIC courtier
GHOST OF Hamlet's Father
(possible doubles Marcellus/Polonius Player/Renaldo)
ACT I Scene 1
Felicity, age 17, dressed in rags, dirty, hungry, exhausted, approaches Lord Osric and Reynaldo to help her. They refuse, but Horatio, enroute to the parapets with Marcellus, agrees kindly to help. She is sent to the kitchen. She reveals that, despite her rags, she's some relation to the king and her home has been destroyed. Alone, she tells she was witness to the murder of King Hamlet. She has put on a lunacy of amnesia in hopes of shelter and food
"...until I find the ear who'll hear my tale
safeguard my life and then
restore my name that I may live again."

ACT I Scene 2
Claudius expresses his concern about this strange beggar. Osric assures him his fears are unfounded, "For sense she has none."

ACT I Scene 3
Love scene between Hamlet and Ophelia as she plays with the Tarot cards. Hamlet divines his father's intention was that they should marry and, relieved to have a mission, exits to tell the Gertrude and Claudius his plan.

Act I Scene 4
Reynaldo brings the Felicity to the Cook, who is unimpressed until she begins to fear that Felicity is a sorceress. Felicity encourages the fear as Cook is willing to feed the sorceress.

ACT I Scene 5
Gertrude and Claudius in prayer. Claudius reassures Gertrude that he understands she is still is grieving and is sympathetic. We find out she is pregnant. Claudius embraces her passionately. Hamlet witnesses this.

ACT I Scene 6
Felicity and Reynaldo seek Ophelia.

ACT I Scene 7
Ophelia and Laertes take leave of each other. He warns her to be wary of Hamlet. Felicity is introduced to Ophelia. As Felicity cleans up she and Ophelia become fast friends. Ophelia reveals she and Hamlet are lovers. Felicity admits she has a secret, but will not tell it. She begs Ophelia to take her to see the Queen.

ACT I Scene 8
Polonius, Ophelia and Felicity attend Gertrude and Claudius. Felicity recognizes Claudius as the murderer, but he does not recognize her. They agree Ophelia may take Felicity as a ladies' maid.
Claudius and Polonius plot to find out if Hamlet's melancholy madness is caused by his love of Ophelia. They hide as Hamlet comes upon Ophelia. Felicity watches in silence as Ophelia tells the lies her father told her too. Hamlet becomes enraged as he realizes Ophelia is lying.

ACT II Scene 1
Gertrude approaches the Cook. They reveal their history. Cook had a son by King Hamlet. Gertrude, in her envy, sent the child away. Gertrude reveals her pregnancy is that of the late King Hamlet, not Claudius (as Claudius believes). She begs the cook to help her as she is miscarrying. The cook pities her, but cannot help. Cook reveals her own son to be Horatio. She tells Gertrude of Felicity (the sorcerer) and suggests she might help with Gertrude's threatened pregnancy.
Felicity enters the kitchen, having promised to make a tisane to relieve Claudius' headache. She offers what she has by way of medicine.

ACT II Scene 2
Felicity serves Claudius the willow bark tea which helps him. But she reveals in an aside that she wants to learn how to make a poison and kill Claudius.

ACT II Scene 4
Ophelia regrets her lies to Hamlet. Felicity helps her form a plan where she may beg pardon and be forgiven. Felicity exits to find Horatio to determine how and where this might happen.

ACT II Scene 5
Hamlet tells Horatio of his affection for him as an honorable man and lays out a plan to stage a play and watch the reaction of the king to see if the king did, indeed, kill King Hamlet.

ACT II Scene 6
Horatio and Felicity meet. She thanks him for his help. He invites Ophelia to the play. They quarrel briefly over whether she may say "yes" for her mistress and part in anger.

ACT II Scene 7
Cook warns Horatio about Felicity, but he laughs at her fears. Cook wants him to tell what happened up on the parapet but he refuses. He gave his word. Marcellus comes in as Horatio exits. Cook gets the whole parapet story out of him with the promise of fritters.

ACT II Scene 8
Ophelia is intruded upon by the Ghost of King Hamlet. He warns her against her involvement with Hamlet and exits. Ophelia screams for Felicity who comes to comfort her. Felicity gives her a few drops of valerian to help her sleep for an hour. As Ophelia sleeps Felicity lights a candle for the Sabbath. She entreats her dead family to come to her as the Ghost came to Ophelia. The Ghost appears. He orders her to tell Hamlet of the murder she witnessed and reassures her that her family has gone to God. Felicity considers the ghost may be demon. The Ghost advances on her and Horatio enters. Horatio thinks Felicity may, indeed, be a sorcerer. She reassures him. They agree to meet at the play.

ACT III Scene 1
The Player expresses his concern to Cook that Hamlet is setting them up for trouble. Cook admits it may be so and begs the Player to take Horatio with them if they run. The Player reluctantly agrees, providing she sends him with provisions.

Act III Scene 2
Horatio and Felicity sit to watch the play. They are courting. Felicity is wary, but Horatio is already committed.

ACT III scene 3
The court arrives to watch the play. Hamlet is tense. His anger is close to the surface. As the dumb show proceeds off stage (under pretense of helping to "explain") Hamlet tells the audience exactly what is happening and watches Claudius closely. Claudius realizes suddenly that Hamlet knows he, Claudius, killed King Hamlet.

ACT III Scene 4
Felicity and Ophelia try to understand what happened. Ophelia cannot figure it out. Felicity will not tell her.

ACT III Scene 5
Next morning Felicity encounters Horatio on his way to Ophelia's chamber. He tells her that Hamlet has murdered Polonius. Gertrude enters. Bids Horatio send for Laertes.

ACT IV Scene 1
Gertrude tells Ophelia of her father's death by Hamlet's hand. Gertrude exits. Ophelia begins the descent into madness. She follows Gertrude.

ACT IV scene 2
Ophelia confronts Gertrude trying to understand what happened. Gertrude will not be straight with her. Ophelia cannot hold herself together. Horatio and Laertes enter to find her insane. Claudius orders Horatio and Felicity to watch Ophelia. They exit. Claudius plans Laertes revenge on Hamlet for the death of his father.

ACT 1V scene 3
Horatio and Felicity watch Ophelia in the garden. Osric spies on them unseen. Felicity expresses her belief that Ophelia is better off insane than faced with the inevitable conflict between Hamlet and Laertes. When Ophelia falls into the creek she persuades Horatio to let her stay there. Then changes her mind and it's Horatio's turn to persuade her to let Ophelia die. They watch as she drowns. Felicity tells Horatio that she witnessed the murder. That she wants to tell Hamlet and find a method to get revenge and restore her family name. Horatio agrees. They exit to tell Claudius etc. about Ophelia's death.

ACT V Scene 1
Osric offers to kill Felicity and Claudius agrees saying he will give him a signal when to do it.

ACT V Scene 2
Hamlet laments the loss of Ophelia. Felicity bears witness to King Hamlet's murder and urges the Prince to avenge his father's death, then offers to poison Claudius herself, given the opportunity.
Hamlet agrees and says he'll beg pardon of Laertes. The novelty of this honorable apology will distract the king. Horatio will sheild Felicity as she poisons the king's cup. When the king is dead Horatio and Felicity will escape as Hamlet orders them to. Felicity is to wait in the kitchen where Horatio says the Cook will keep her safe.

ACT V Scene 3
Cook accuses Felicity of killing Ophelia. She thinks Felicity has "witched" Horatio too. When Osric comes looking for Felicity Cook has hides her in the big kettle which she swings over the fire. When Osric leaves Cook reveals she is Horatio's mother and orders Felicity to keep the secret in exchange for saving her life. Horatio comes to warn Felicity of Osric and declares his love for her to Cook.

ACT V scene 4
The throne room. Claudius commands Felicity to sit by him, explains the duel to her as a monument to their grief. He tells her he will "make his decision" on her after the duel.
The duel. Hamlet begs Laertes pardon. Felicity slips the poison into the king's cup. They duel. Hamlet is mortally wounded. Laertes is mortally wounded. Laertes confesses his treachery. The Queen is poisoned. Hamlet attacks Claudius. Hamlet begs Horatio to tell the story. Claudius, Gertrude, Hamlet, Laertes die.

ACT V Scene 5
Hoartio and Felicity tell what happened to Cook. Cook reveals she is Horatio's mother and the late King Hamlet his father. He declines to try and become king. Instead he asks Felicity to marry him and come with him to tell Hamlet's story.


From: "Sharyn Shipley"
Subject: criticism
Date: Wed, 20 Aug 1997 17:33:22 -0700

Dear Larry,

This is in response to a question from the International Center for Women Playwright's List on how one handles critiques. Especially those suggesting I toss out a great deal of the original structure which included a lot of Shakespeare --

It was difficult, at first, to throw away the comfort of Shakespeare, knowing he was reliable in his plot "engine" power. But as I've gotten used to it, it's become easier. I usually take all the critiques and figure out how much they agree on. Then I make changes.
The reading was wonderful for helping me hear which scenes didn't work. Actually there was only one wipeout and it was solved with much creative input and fun.
There are still a few scenes that make me cringe when I hear them but I think it's because they're so very personal to me as I didn't notice the audience squirming. I think it's like a composer listening to a work. There's an inner sense when the words are off that is fairly reliable. But unlike a musical composition words are very evocative of personal experiences and sometimes memories get in the way of the re-writes.

One thing is driving me nuts. I started writing the play sort of in the middle with the scene between Ophelia and the Ghost. At the moment that scene seems not to further the plot. I'm reluctant to abandon it, but in the long run I think I must.

Quote from Bill Gibson, "Just figure you'll have to cut out all your favorite lines and you'll be all right".

This method works like a charm for me.

In answer to this query:

Laney Roberts of WARF-RAT PRODUCTIONS out in Salem told me she has two of your plays for a possible readings/production operation.
How many of these things are floating around these days?
I remember PORTRAIT OF A WANTON QUEEN, and that weird one about the religious fanatics, and then the one about the Playboy Bunny approaching 30.
And you told me MOTHER'S DAY IN THE DRUNK TANK went up at LaMama West.
Silence, until what may one day become FELICITY turned up.

So, what have YOU been writing since I physically S A W you last?
When you get time, fill me in.

Sharyn answered:

From: "Sharyn Shipley"
Date: Sun, 24 Aug 1997 11:25:47 -0700

I am amazed that you recall my works. Jeez, your brain must be on overload.
La Mama produced "Caryatids" (the Playboy play) and was named "Play of the Year" by Dramalogue.
I went on to write some TV. An episode of "Trapper John, MD" was nominated for an Image Award.
That you and Laney Roberts were discussing "Felicity" is wonderful to me.
I haven't heard anything from them.

My play, "Wanton Queen", went nowhere after Brandeis. Although the subject was used for a Hallmark Hall of Fame season's opener so I suppose it's dead in the water.
"Mother's Day in the Drunk Tank" has not been produced yet.
More later,

From: "Sharyn Shipley"
Subject: criticism
Date: Wed, 20 Aug 1997 17:33:22 -0700

Dear Larry,

This is in response to a question from the International Center for Women Playwright's List on how one handles critiques. Especially those suggesting I toss out a great deal of the original structure which included a lot of Shakespeare --

It was difficult, at first, to throw away the comfort of Shakespeare, knowing he was reliable in his plot "engine" power. But as I've gotten used to it, it's become easier. I usually take all the critiques and figure out how much they agree on. Then I make changes.
The reading was wonderful for helping me hear which scenes didn't work. Actually there was only one wipeout and it was solved with much creative input and fun.
There are still a few scenes that make me cringe when I hear them but I think it's because they're so very personal to me as I didn't notice the audience squirming. I think it's like a composer listening to a work. There's an inner sense when the words are off that is fairly reliable. But unlike a musical composition words are very evocative of personal experiences and sometimes memories get in the way of the re-writes.

One thing is driving me nuts. I started writing the play sort of in the middle with the scene between Ophelia and the Ghost. At the moment that scene seems not to further the plot. I'm reluctant to abandon it, but in the long run I think I must.

Quote from Bill Gibson, "Just figure you'll have to cut out all your favorite lines and you'll be all right".

This method works like a charm for me.

Date: Sun, 10 Aug 1997 17:09:36 -0400
From: The Theater Mirror
Subject: Re: "Felicity"

At 07:08 PM 7/19/97 -0700, you wrote:
>Dear Larry,
> This is the most interesting time. Waiting for the first staged

Did you survive?

From: "Sharyn Shipley"
To: "The Theater Mirror"
Subject: Re: "Felicity"
Date: Sun, 10 Aug 1997 18:27:22 -0700
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal

Gloriously, wonderfully. I wrote two letters to you and tore them up, figuratively speaking, because I couldn't imagine how I'd tell you about it.

I'm currently completing the rewrite (yet another, it goes on forever) based on the reading.

First I want to say hooray for the professional cast:

Claudette Southerland (Cook) with a charming Irish brougue
Katy Boyer (Felicity) did a flawless Hebrew prayer and performance
Mark Bramhall (Claudius) a royal sensualist - whew!
Don R. McManus(Hamlet) a truly elegant turn
William Dennis Hunt(Polonius/Marcellus) a loving father
Julia Campbell (Ophelia) alluring, charming, fragile
Jay Karnes (Laertes) made me wish he had a larger role.
Rod Menzies (Ghost/Osric) Commanding and infuriating and the poetry!
Michael Nostrand (Player/Reynaldo) a charming rogue & loyal buffoon
Marilyn McIntyre (Gertrude) to the manner born
Scott Allan Campell (Horatio) modest, heroic, loving

Second a warm thanks to the director
Stephanie Shroyer - turned a reading into a full theatrical experience
with the assistant directorial help of Leeze Watstein who read the stage directions with aplomb and was endlessly helpful.

That said, what a ride! From the first rehearsal (where we found out the play within a play simply did not work) to reading (where the rewrite went flawlessly) it was completely involving and entertaining.

What I learned: I love to work! There is so much more fun involved in rewriting while the show is rehearsing that it's like being on another planet. And somehow I was more creative. Also the input from the cast and director(s) was invaluable. I'm now hip deep in the changes that became obviously needed as the work progressed.
Although it's amazing to me what an actor can do with a pedestrian line.
After the play the audience spoke to the playwright (me). This is very interesting, and the questions were reasonable and intellligent. The producer (Jan Lewis who also dramaturged) mentioned that more people stayed to talk to author than usual. Also some of them were Shakespearian scholars, some Judaic scholars, and some, (like me) just interested folks.

I'm hunting around now for some info on ancient Denmark, Jews in Denmark and Europe. Just to make sure I have my facts right. Also I'm working to make the character of Felicity more active. It was a general consensus that I needn't touch the scenes with the Cook. She's well realized and a great favorite. Felicity needs a touch more work. I was surprised to find that a few people want me to change the basic plot of "Hamlet", you know, save Ophelia. Not a chance.
Jan has mentioned to me that the Public (NY Shakespeare Fest) has asked her for a script and she's planning to send mine!

It was a positive experience in every way. The Skirball Museum is a beautiful place. It was meltingly hot day, I suppose that was the worst of it. The cast knew each other and the director and they were eager to work with her. I hope all readings go this well. I would dearly like to see "Felicity" up in her silks now but even these little "legs" are an inspiration.
There are also four Shakespeare Fests looking at the play. I think that's probably it's natural home if I do it well enough. But for the moment, to quote the Cook, "May I never touch another pot if I ain't satisfied".
Thanks for remembering. I was truly touched.
All best,

Date: Thu, 30 Jan 1997 06:21:04 -0800
From: (Sharyn Shipley)
Subject: Name change: Felicity

Dear Larry --
Here are some big chunks from Jan Lewis' wonderful critique of my play. I have rewritten it and sent it out to her. The big one is the name change. I met with Jan in Los Angeles and had one of those discussions so dear to the hearts of writers -- we only talked about the work! And in such detail. Bless this woman. She works with a lot of writers and I want to thank each and every one of them as well as her for giving her the experience to talk in such concrete terms.

Correspondence from Jan Lewis to Sharyn Shipley re: Hamlet: the Women.

"Well, I've finally gotten through Hamlet: the Women, and I've retrieved 25 pages of correspondence and notes from Theater Mirror.
My thought, pretty random at the moment, since it usually takes me serveral readings and a lot of time to be really coherent, are as follows:
I think you've got a great idea, that a lot of it works well, and that with some mroe work, you'll have something pretty spectacular. Just the fact thatyou've written the netire thing in blank verse really blows me away.
I think the title should not be Hamlet: The Women, but something else, because the play is really about Felicity, and it should be. It's her story that's most interesting, since she's invented. At any rate, you don't really focus on the women as much s you do on creating another version of the story.
Felicity's arc through the story is a little confusing. Does she really not remember her name? Or does she not reveal it because it's a herbrew name? Also, I'm not clear on her mission. What is she trying to do? Get to Hamlet? Get to the king and why would she want to go near him, since he's a murderer? Get to Gertrude? But why? She seems to want to do all of these, and I'm not clear on what's really going on.
I think the Cook is a great character, and the sorcery bit is neat, but there's not enough linkage between the fact that she's Jewish and the fact that they think she's a witch. I think you need to heighten that Jewish connection through the play, because the sorceress stuff is used so often.
The fact of Horatio's relationship to Hamlet via the Cook doesn't pay off at the end, and it needs to -- other wise it's a red herring. It's one of the more interesting and creative elements in theplay, but it is never connected to the end of the play, at least not as far as I could discern.
More connections to the fact that Felicity is Jewish. Much more needs to be made of it. You use that connection only a few times in the play. What happens to the star around her neck? Doesn't Ophelia see it? Does she hide it somewhere? Why would she continue to wear it? You set it up at the beginning, and I love the stuff about "What's a Jew? They dont eat pig", which I think is hilarious. Then that's dropped for most of the rest of the play, and when it's mentioned again, the Jewish references seem to come out of nowhere. You need to make a choice here - either use it or lose. I vote for use it -- more. What would a Jewish girl do in a situation like this, and what are it's moral ramifications for her?
I say use more Shakespeare's Hamlet, not one or two loines. The fun stuff is when your play and the orignial intersect, and it almost never happens. I know, I know that Bill Gibson said just the opposite, and I've never read that earlier version. Unlike Gibson, I do like the metaphysical event when two world which are in parallel lines suddenly intersect, where the characters seem to walk from one play through another and then out again.
But more than just a question of taste, I wonder if your audience will want something to ground them, to let htem know that this new play has a relationship with the story with which they are familiar. It might just anchor the script. A difficult question which which I know you have been struggling.
This brings us to the entire question of does the audience need to know that this is Hamlet, and do they need to know anything about Hamlet in order to appreciate the play? At first, Ithought they did, and then I realized that perhaps they didn't - perhaps it's enough to have this story and these characters and what most people in the audience will have, a rudimentary knowledge of Shakespeare's most produced play.
Some scenes don't seen to end with a punch, a conclusion, and they need to, in order to push the play, keep the momentun going.
I'm confused about Felicity trying to seduce the king and then attempted rape by Osric; thee two events are linked in the way you present them. It all happens real fast and isn't foreshadowed. Hard to follow because it comes out of nowhere.
p.60, It's redundant to have Ophelia tell Felicity about the event of the Ghost visiting her in her chamber when we've just seen it all. We know what happened and we don't need to hear it again. Is there another way to handle this scene so that its energy isn't stopped by so much exposition?
My biggest problem in the play is the next to last scene in the play, in which dues occurs, but we don't see it. it seems to me that is the one place in the play in which you MUST have the real scene fromShakespeare, trimmed possible, but more or less intact. Otherwise, we have no idea what's going on. And what you have is just not as exciting as the original. Anyone who know the original will miss it here. And Felicity's last lines in this scene are just not very exciting, they seem anticlimactic cmpared to actually witnessing the dule, the drinking from the poisoned cup, the exchange of rapiers, etc. And then it's a real problem to have the events of the scene which we don't see (ie. the duel etc.) narrated to the Cook in the next scene.
Stay away from narrations whenever you can, well, you already know that, but especially at the end of the play!
At the moment, without another reading of the play, this is the best I can do. I like the play a lot, and I'll give it to my partners to look at. It seems tome that we may very well want to include this in our summer 1997 festival..."

End of excerpts. Typos are mine, of course, as she had nary a one. I wish all of your playwrights critiques like these!
The summer festival is to be a series of readings held at the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles.
Ain't we got fun!
I should mention that I turned down by the O'Neil festival. It's not all fun. But we push on.
All best,

When I suggested that I had been sent one scene of Sharyn
Shipley's play "Hamlet -- The Women" and wanted to arrange a
living-room reading, we got this immediate reaction from our good
friend and very emotional Acter E Grace Noonan:

Mon, 1 Apr 1996 17:37:21 GMT

Subject: Sharyn's HAMLET

It sounds fabulous!


Subject: Me! me!!!! Pleasepleasepleaseplease!!!!!
E Grace Noonan


Sharyn has forwarded more mail to us, as follows:

Date: Fri, 12 Jul 1996 16:52:27 -0700
From: Sharyn Shipley
Subject: Hamlet: the Women

Dear Larry,

As I wrassle with the last two scenes I thought I'd send you William Gibson's ("Two for the Seesaw" "The Miracle Worker") critique of my new work. He sent it on a page of Clifford Odets 1940 journal with the following note: "I'm too lazy to go down to the house for paper ... if you don't like one side of this letter you may the other." (Any typos are mine, any brilliance is Gibson's."
Here's the critique:

"A pro and a con on it. The con you no doubt have already heard, or will hear, from people who say Oh she's doing what Stoppard did with Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, a not astute observation but one that I'd excpect to get in its way pratically. The pro is that have (almost) created a world and a language of your own around the original which I find impressive. I say (almost) because I think it's unfinished. (Like all plays.)

I dislike the Shxpr inclusions for a couple of reasons. One is I'm not a collage fan, and the more into and out of quotes and scenes seems simple inorganic. Another is that they take up time - and with overfamiliar material! - that should be spent in devleoping your own character, action, theme; these interest me more, and leave much I don't understand. Theme, for instance, the half-title suggests feminine if not feminist, and the action offers us pregnancy, motherhood, life going on in terms other than that male nonsense of state and Fortinbras. If this is what I'm to see, how is Felicity's being Jewish a relevant item? - except as historic victimization, maybe? - but such question arise out of too little space given to your characters and too much to the old boy's.

Technically, the plot feels like narrative, rather than drama, because the characters lack will or withhold it until the end. Thus, things happen to them, but they don't make them happen. Imagine if Felicity enters the play at the outset knowing, not having repressed, her sight of the murder - what a path of a dozen different actions opens up for her! according to what she wants, and from whom, and takes steps to get. I'd love to know all this and how it fits in that Horatio is the Cook's son by Hamlet's father (after all, you're the cook here) much more than seeing the nunnery scene again."

>From me: I'm re-reading "Shakespeare's Game" by William Gibson. It's really an extraordinary book for writer's and "Shxpr" fans.
All Best

Date: Sun, 9 Jun 1996 04:45:53 -0700
From: (Sharyn Shipley )
Subject: Hamlet: the Women

Dear Larry --

Almost finished with the most recent "perfect" rewrite.
All best

Date: Tue, 2 Jul 1996 10:45:03 -0700
From: (Sharyn Shipley)
Subject: Almost - almost -- almost

Dear Larry,

This rewriting business takes a long time. Especially since I've now reached the part where my unconscious decisions are so manifest.

Ah well it's a revelatory process.

Hope all's well. Any returns on your mailing? Can you offer discount tickets through the mirror? I've heard this is a way to show to the theatres how the mirror impacts their audience. And that way perhaps start to get the revenues you deserve. A suggestion - possibly a subscription service paid for both the audience and theatres where the subscriber could get a discount on tickets through access to a paid only list?

Does this make sense? Would you like to see Bill Gibson's critique?

All best,


Yes, Sharyn, I would indeed Love to know what William Gibson thought of HAMLET -- THE WOMEN !!!

I suspect the creator of TWO FOR THE SEASAW, THE MIRACLE WORKER, A CRY OF PLAYERS, and DINNY AND THE WITCHES might have advice worth considering...........!

I'm glad to know you're still in touch with him. That year he spent teaching your Playwriting Class at Brandeis is a long time ago, isn't it? How time flies when you're doing dialog...


Dear Larry -

I am currently amassing critiques. The finest one so far being from Margo MacDonald of "A Company of Fools" in Canada. I have asked her permission to send you the letter and when it comes will be delighted to pass it on.
I find that in changing the format of what I was writing from a piece of the "Ultimate Hamlet" to an independent playscript I have a whole new set of elements to keep in mind. There is information that I must give, I need to establish the plot "engine" and I was relying on that herculean engine in "Hamlet". I'm about a third of the way through the rewrite now and will send the updated synopsis soon.
Last night I went to see a theatre group in Seattle currently rehearsing "Hamlet". What a rare pleasure. All excellent "acters" and in a huge cathedral. Hmm, says I, that's one third of the ultimate project. And what a building, says I, swooning away at the enormity and religiousity of the place. Any hope, says I? Well, not right now, they answer. So I watched as the stained glass windows changed from jewels to black arches and listened and, as usual, learned.
And they have suggested I join a playwright's group with the Intiman Theatre with which they are connected (very loosely). A group encompassing the likes of August Wilson. So that's the mission for today. Wish me luck.



cc: CRITICK Larry Stark

Sub: Re: Your play

Tue May 28 15:24:18 1996

Dear Margo -

Sending this on to Larry Stark at the Theatre Mirror Thanks Sharyn

Dear Sharyn,

Finally I am able to sit down and write to you about the script you kindly sent to me a few months ago! I appologize that it has taken so long for me to get back to you about it - life has been beyond hectic this last little while.

First of all, I'd like to thank you very much for sharing this peice of work with us. You are obviously a writer of some talent and new works on Shakespeare themes are always of great interest to me.

I do have some comments to make based on my reading of the play. I hope you find these comments helpful in further developing this play and I'd be interested in seeing future drafts if you care to share them with me.

- I think that the title of the play is misleading. By using the title "Hamlet: The Women" you give a much different expectation about what the play is about than what is ultimately presented. The play, I'm sure you are aware, is not really about the women in Hamlet but is really about the character you made up that weaves in and out of the story of Hamlet. It seems to me that your inspiration was to write a play about the women in Hamlet but that you ended up finding the character you had created yourself more interesting. This is fine, only don't confuse your audience. I think you should make a strong choice in either direction and go with it.

Either write a play that is the story of Hamlet from the women's perspective (a very interesting idea by the way) but only using the women characters actually present in Hamlet, OR write a play about a fictional character - give her story and let the audience discover during the course of the play that this character has bumped into the story of Hamlet (another interesting idea which has great comic and poignant potential). Right now you have done something between the two and the result to my mind is that the play is not as strong as it could be (though it would probably make a great novel!)

This is my main comment, the rest are just little things.

- Decide what audience your play is aimed at. Right now your play begins like a children's play but as the plot moves forward it proves to be a play definitely not for children and the playful attitude that begins the play is never taken up again.

- Be careful, once or twice characters show knowledge of things in the context of the play which they had had no opportunity to learn.

- I had a lot of trouble believing in the drowning scene. From previous knowledge of these characters as you present them in the play, there is no way that they would have let Ophelia just drown without trying to save her. The characters are too noble and besides, we as the audience are supposed to like them and we won't if they let Ophelia drown without trying to keep it from happening.

Those were the main things I thought of when reading the play. Good work though, but now you should continue working to make it a strong and viable play. Speaking of which, unfortunately in this day and age, you should consider the size of your cast and the complexity of the scenic arrangements. These days it is very difficult to get a play with a cast of more than six or eight produced and, if the scenic necessities are too great it does not bode well for the viability of the play's production.

As an aside, a Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, released a book of short stories a few years ago in which she had written a monologue said by Queen Gertrude. In the monologue she is scolding Hamlet for behaving so badly and treating his uncle so rudely. At the last of the monolgue she says something to the