The Public Theater brings unique Shakespeare performances to community centers across the city

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“It just made me feel so proud of my neighborhood," Debora Chapman smiled.

Debora Chapman is beaming after seeing the play Hamlet for the first time.

"I’m a sister in the hood, and I've been reading my Shakespeare book all day looking forward to this and it was just such a great performance," Chapman said

But instead of making the trip downtown to the show, the show came to her at the Pelham Fritz Recreation Center in Harlem.

“It was great to just be with people in my neighborhood and we got to see great, excellent performances," she added.

Performances are also free, made possible by the Public Theater's 'Mobile Unit.'

"The Public Theater is taking stripped down Shakespeare plays all over New York City and offering it up to homeless shelters, prisons and community centers," Stephanie Ybarra, Director of Special Artistic Projects, explained.

The traveling troupe goes to 18 different locations over the course of three weeks.

“I think it’s changed me as an actor, playing Hamlet but on top of it, playing it in this way," Chukwudi Iwuji said.

Leading the impressive cast is Olivier Award Winner, Chukwudi Iwuji.

"Doing it this way and being able to go to those places that are dominated by people of color I think that it’s really important that they go and see me play Hamlet," he said about the importance of diversity in casting.

Diversity that stretches from the actors to the audience.

"It was incredibly powerful and I think that the use of paired down minimized performance really speaks to that," Perri Yaniv, an audience member, said.

“This was a great performance," Jacob Daniels, a 9 year old, smiled. "It is very cool for local people who want to see shows.”

A unique program that starred in 1956 but was revamped seven years ago, that has not only entertained but inspired.

"I came to one of these about 20 years ago and I was so inspired, I went to college to learn Shakespeare because of the Public Theater's program," Debra Ann Byrd, an audience member, said.  "And in those 20 years I’ve started my own Shakespeare company."

Hamlet is now playing the last leg of its mobile tour at the Public Theater's main location through October 9th.


Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi