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218: Act V

218: Act V

Aug 9, 2002
We devote this entire episode to one story: Over the course of six months, reporter and This American Life contributor Jack Hitt followed a group of inmates at a high-security prison as they rehearsed and staged a production of the last act—Act V—of Hamlet.
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Shakespeare may seem like an odd match for a group of hardened criminals, but Jack found that they understand the Bard on a level that most of us might not. It's a play about murder and its consequences, performed by murderers, living out the consequences. For more information about the program these prisoners were involved in, visit the Prison Performing Arts website.
  • Prologue.

    3 Min
    Host Ira Glass surveys various productions of Hamlet being staged around the country: At community colleges in Brooklyn and Honolulu, on a professional stage in Boston, and at a Shakespeare camp for kids in San Francisco—where all the scenes are death scenes. Ira Glass
  • Jack Hitt begins his story about a group of prisoners at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center who are rehearsing and staging a production of Hamlet. The man who plays Hamlet gets in character by recalling times he's wanted to hurt people, like the crime that sent him to prison, in which he shot two people and left them for dead. Big Hutch, who plays Horatio, explains how it would work if you set Hamlet in a prison, and why it would actually improve a flaw in the plot. You can see video clips of the Prison Performing Arts performances online. Jack Hitt
  • Jack Hitt's story about a prison production of Hamlet continues. He discovers that almost all the actors draw on their pasts in one way or another to get into character. And some of them have committed crimes even worse than Jack had imagined. Jack Hitt
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