Copyright ©2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

William Shakespeare is once again center stage. A dramatic film comes out this month that questions whether the bard was the true author of his celebrated works. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles a Shakespeare company is trying to introduce a little more iambic pentameter into people's lives in unexpected places. Gloria Hillard brings us the story from a downtown high-rise.

GLORIA HILLARD, BYLINE: Wearing suits and somewhat harried expressions, veteran actors Michael Rothhaar and Tony Pasqualini blend right in with the lunch crowd of this office building.

(SOUNDBITE OF ELEVATOR DINGING)

HILLARD: Rothhaar and Pasqualini jockey for their position in the rear of the packed elevator. When the doors close, that's their cue.

TONY PASQUALINI: (as Horatio) Lord, I think I saw him yester night.

MICHAEL ROTHHAAR: (as Hamlet) Saw who?

PASQUALINI: (as Horatio) Lord, the king your father.

ROTHHAAR: (as Hamlet) The king, my father?

PASQUALINI: (as Horatio) A figure like your father, armed at all points.

HILLARD: It was hard to tell if anyone recognized this was a scene from Hamlet. The elevator audience stared straight ahead or concentrated on the changing floor numbers, others fumbled with their phones.

(SOUNDBITE OF ELEVATOR DINGING)

ROTHHAAR: (as Hamlet) The king, my father?

HILLARD: On the ride back down to the lobby it was another packed house.

ROTHHAAR: (as Hamlet) Armed you say?

PASQUALINI: (as Horatio) Armed, my lord.

ROTHHAAR: (as Hamlet) From top to toe?

PASQUALINI: (as Horatio) My lord, from head to foot.

ROTHHAAR: (as Hamlet) And saw you not his face?

HILLARD: People move quickly once those doors open.

Did you notice anything unusual in the elevator?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: No.

FINLEY MOLL: I thought they were practicing for their night job.

HILLARD: As actors?

MOLL: As actors, yes. It's L.A.

HILLARD: Finley Moll took the Elizabethan moment all in stride, but Amanda Dorinson-Greenfield was confused.

AMANDA DORINSON GREENFIELD: We're they actually talking about the bible in an elevator in the California Mart?

PASQUALINI: (as Horatio) I'll speak to it, though hell itself should gape and bid me hold my peace.

HILLARD: Elevator passenger Helen Kaufmann says she recognized the Shakespeare dialogue by the third floor, but adhered to elevator etiquette.

HELEN KAUFMANN: If they were having a lover's quarrel people would be silent as well. But there's something kind of cool about hearing Shakespeare when you least expect it.

HILLARD: That's what actress and director Nancy Linehan-Charles had in mind when she formed the Salty Shakespeare Company. The group has performed on Venice Beach and has plans to take Romeo and Juliet to a shopping mall.

NANCY LINEHAN-CHARLES: I had been trying to find ways my whole life to make Shakespeare accessible to people.

ROTHHAAR: (as Hamlet) Did you not speak to it?

PASQUALINI: (as Horatio) I did, my lord, but answer made it none. And once we thought - once we thought it lifted up its head...

HILLARD: Actor Tony Pasqualini as Horatio and Michael Rothhaar as Hamlet didn't miss a beat despite all the distractions and, well, an actor's nightmare – the inattention of their audience.

ROTHHAAR: It comes out of one of them, it's like who's talking? What are they talking about? Oh, should I pay attention? Oh, maybe not. Oh, his father's dead. Hopefully, they go that far. I don't know.

(as Hamlet) My father's spirit in arms. All is not well.

HILLARD: It only took Pamela Switzler three floors to catch on.

PAMELA SWITZLER: I was like, they're doing Shakespeare. It was awesome the whole ride down. Loved it. Actually, when we were done and the doors opened I wanted to clap, but then, you know, I was like, oh, never mind.

HILLARD: A little applause would have been nice for the actors. As it was, the audience was always walking out – sometimes in the middle of the scene.

ROTHHAAR: (as Hamlet) All is not well. Be still my heart.

(SOUNDBITE OF ELEVATOR DINGING)

HILLARD: For NPR News, I'm Gloria Hillard.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.