Marcel Meyer as the Prince of Denmark, and Jeremy Richard and Mathew Baldwin as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in The Tragedy of Hamlet at the Rhodes Theatre, Grahamstown, 06 July 2015, at the 2015 National Arts Festival. Abrahamse & Meyer Productions brings this new rendition of the tragedy as performed by the crew aboard The Red Dragon off the East Coast of South Africa, one of the earliest recorded performances of Hamlet, in 1608. Photo\: CuePix / Jane Berg.
INTERNATIONAL - In the early 1600s, butchers, tanners and other commoners all paid a penny - often almost an entire day’s wages - to join the masses in watching one of Shakespeare’s plays at London’s Globe.

Today at Shakespeare’s Globe in London - the iconic theatre was rebuilt next to the original site - cheap seats cost about $8 (R115), still considered a bargain, while well-heeled patrons will fork up $70 each for gallery seats.

Meghan Freebeck, an advocate for the homeless in San Francisco, visited the theatre in 2017 and got an idea: Shakespeare should be for all. Since the homeless generally don’t go to live theatre, maybe she could bring Shakespeare to the homeless.

That is how 16 homeless people in San Francisco ended up sitting in a circle last month with several actors Freebeck recruited from the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival.

“Shakespeare covers the whole gambit of the human experience,” said Freebeck, founder of the non-profit Simply the Basics, a hygiene supply bank for San Francisco’s homeless.

Although Shakespeare’s plays have been around for more than 400 years, their significance still resonates, especially among people going through troubled times, said Freebeck, 31.

“Using Shakespeare is a safe way for them to explore their own experiences and celebrate the good in their lives.”

Participants who responded to Freebeck’s invitation to attend a “Shakespeare for All Neighbours” workshop took part in acting exercises. These were followed by a reading of a synopsis of the comedy As You Like It, then a discussion about each character and an assignment to create original folklore using a quotation from Shakespeare.

Participant Eric Vallejos, in his late forties, said this was the first time he had been exposed to Shakespeare.

For the actors who participated, the workshop was an opportunity to connect with an audience they otherwise would not have, said Akaina Ghosh, 25. “Everyone had a story to share,” she said.

The Washington Post