William Shakespeare’s Hamlet at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia: Starring British Actress Zainab Jah as Hamlet

In the spring, the Wilma will stage back-to-back productions of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Tom Stoppard’s now classic behind-the-scenes comedy Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, both directed by Wilma Artistic Director Blanka Zizka and using essentially the same cast for both productions.  The title character in Shakespeare’s tragedy will be played by the powerful actress Zainab Jah, who appeared as Prudence in last season’s production of The Convert.

Prudence (Zainab Jah) enjoying a pipe and cup of tea at Chilford’s house in the world premiere production of The Convert by Danai Gurira, directed by Emily Mann 

The Wilma is excited to produce what many believe to be the greatest play written by Shakespeare, and many others consider the greatest play written in the English language.  The fight for the throne of Denmark, quest for moral righteousness, and complexities of vengeance within a 21st century context will be reexamined on our stage.

The Coats School, originally an old farm school that was “marginalized” during North Carolina’s consolidation of rural schools into large buildings, was originally a school where children would learn useful trade skills such as farming and automotive repair.  The consolidation program eliminated clusters of these smaller districts and combined them, supposedly to save money for various towns and villages, but many lovely old buildings were left to rot when children were moved to modern monoliths.  The Coats School was in remarkably good shape when I found it in 2012.  Here is the auditorium, as seen from the stage - a damn sight flashier than the one in the 60s/70s institutional high school I attended.  Despite the wear and tear, it could be put back into use fairly easily - but it won’t be.  The Coats School is scheduled for demolition whenever they can come up with the funds for it.

Print available here.

“A formidable task force carves out a beachhead, about 350 miles from the Japanese mainland. Landing craft of all kinds blacken the sea out to the horizon, where stand the battlewagons, cruisers and destroyers.” Okinawa, April 13, 1945.

From the series: Activities, Facilities, and Personalities, 1886 - 1967. Records of the U.S. Coast Guard.

U.S. forces invaded Okinawa on April 1, 1945, during one of the last campaigns of World War II.  The Battle of Okinawa lasted from early April until mid-June 1945 as the Allies sought to gain the island for use as a strategic air base against mainland Japan. The battle was one of the bloodiest in the Pacific, and over 77,000 Japanese soldiers were killed or committed suicide, while the Allies suffered over 14,000 deaths.  Additionally the local population suffered significant casualties, and an estimated 42,000–150,000 local civilians were killed or committed suicide.

via the National Archives at Boston on Facebook


Happy birthday, Shakespeare! Happy deathday too, I guess- how efficient of him to do both on the same date.

These lovely engravings come from an 8 volume set of the Bard’s works, simply titled The Plays of William Shakespeare, published in 1791.

Playbill announcing President Lincoln’s intention to attend the evening’s performance of the comedy Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre, April 14, 1865

Want a copy?
E-mail rightsrepro@chicagohistory.org and give them this number: ICHi-52535

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The balcony on Tuesday at Ford’s Theater, where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated 150 years ago. Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

At just before 8 p.m. on Tuesday night, looking straight out from the Petersen House on 10th Street in Washington, it was briefly possible to filter out the peripheral sounds and sights of the city and imagine the scene 150 years ago almost to the minute, when President Abraham Lincoln’s carriage pulled up in front of Ford’s Theater and delivered him to his fate.


Nellie Stone Johnson

This Wikipedia article is one of the fruits of our first Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon. Special Collections has biographical files, an oral history and a book on Nellie Stone Johnson.  There is also a file on her in the old Minneapolis Public Library archives.

Nellie was a pioneer in Minneapolis politics, a member of the Farmer-Labor side of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) in Minnesota, she was the first African-American elected to citywide office in Minneapolis.  Nellie was elected to the Minneapolis Public Library board in 1945.

The History Theater in St. Paul will be debuting a play on Johnson, Nellie on January 26, it will run until February 17th.

From the History Theater:

Civil rights and labor activist Nellie Stone Johnson was a Minnesota hero. Her feisty spirit and drive to succeed made her a political force to be reckoned with on issues of social justice, labor rights, and equality. Renowned playwright Kim Hines tells the remarkable story of a young African-American woman who moved from a farm in northern Minnesota to Minneapolis to attend the U of M. In the face of discrimination at her job Nellie fought back by organizing workers to form a union, breaking numerous race and gender barriers along way.

View of actors in costume from a production of “Macbeth” by the W.P.A. Federal Theatre Negro Unit. The production, directed by Orson Welles, was set in 19th century Haiti. Printed on front: “Macbeth, no. 31.” Stamped on back: “Please credit W.P.A. Federal Theatre photos.” 1936.

Courtesy of the E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts, Detroit Public Library

The Night Of Lincoln’s Assassination

When newspapers announced Lincoln and Grant would both attend Ford’s Theater on the night of April 14, Booth decided to strike.

He had played Ford’s Theater for the second time just the previous month, and at any rate he was well known; his presence there did not arouse suspicion. Showing his card to a White House footman, he obtained entry to the box where Abraham and Mary Lincoln were enjoying the comedy Our American Cousin. Grant wasn’t there, only Major Henry R. Rathbone and his fiancé, Clara, seated on the far side of the box from where Booth entered around 10 pm. 

Booth almost certainly ascertained this before entering, by peering through a hole in the door that had been drilled so guards could check on the president without interrupting him. After entering, he secured the door with a wooden bar.

Absorbed in the evening’s entertainment, Lincoln was leaning forward and was unaware of Booth’s approach. The assassin shot him from behind, the bullet entering the left side of his head and lodging beneath an eye; Lincoln would linger through the night, dying a little before 7:30 the next morning. Rathbone leapt to seize Booth, who cut a deep slice in the major’s arm with a large knife before vaulting over the flag-draped rail of the box to the stage below. 

One foot caught on the flag, and he broke his leg when he landed. Most witnesses say he shouted the motto of Virginia, “Sic semper tyrannis” (“Thus always to tyrants”); others claim he said, “The South is avenged.” He may have shouted both before making his leg-dragging escape through a read door.

- See more at: http://www.historynet.com/john-wilkes-booth#sthash.O3OUbVmm.dpuf

View of Maurice Ellis and Wardell Saunders (left) with other actors in a performance of “Macbeth” by the W.P.A. Federal Theatre Negro Unit. The production, directed by Orson Welles, was set in 19th century Haiti. Printed on front: “Macbeth, no. 34.” Stamped on back: “Please credit W.P.A. Federal Theatre photos.” Handwritten on back: “Wardell Saunders, Malcolm.” 1936.

Courtesy of the E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts, Detroit Public Library