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Allen Porterie '20 as Hamlet, right, Janilya Baizack '17 as the Queen.

Syrian political satire 'Hamlet Wakes Up Late' to premiere at Cornell

From left, Janilya Baizack '17 as the Queen, Allen Porterie '20 as Hamlet and Sydney Wolfe '20 as Ophelia.

“Hamlet Wakes Up Late,” a biting political satire by renowned Syrian poet and playwright Mamduh Adwan, will have its English-language premiere Nov. 10-18 at Cornell. Presented by the Department of Performing and Media Arts (PMA), the play, translated by Margaret Litvin, is adapted and directed by Rebekah Maggor, assistant professor of performance.

In Adwan’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet (played by Allen Porterie ’20) is a narcissistic prince, blissfully unaware of his people’s bleak reality. Distracted by drink and artistic pretentions, Hamlet fails to notice the rise of a brutal plutocratic dictatorship.

Maggor was inspired to bring the work to Cornell after directing a reading of it in New York City. “The play resonated with our U.S. audience. They found it both politically provocative and highly entertaining,” she said.

The Cornell production features original music, dancing, action scenes (including members of the Cornell fencing team), humor and extravagant costumes.

The play’s themes are particularly meaningful within the context of the growing gap between rich and poor in the United States, Porterie said: “We often ignore and even discredit experiences that are not our own, which places us in parallel realities in this nation. Adwan poignantly highlights this phenomenon through the ‘unwokeness’ of Prince Hamlet. In the midst of political turmoil and the suffering of working people, Hamlet remains focused only on issues that directly affect him.”

The production brings together undergraduates, graduate students and faculty from across campus and from the United States, Mexico, Uzbekistan, Ecuador, Nigeria, Singapore, China, Greece and India.

“It’s astonishing how many cultural perspectives are contributing to the vision of this show. In a time of increasingly hateful rhetoric this production is a special reminder of the true character of the Cornell community,” said Christopher Morales ’20, who plays Fortinbras.

The show features music by Syrian-American composer and artist-in-residence Kinan Abou-afach, with the cast of 14 student actors and dancers joined on stage by local musicians Max Buckholtz, Zoe Weiss, Matthew Ocone and Avner Finberg. Choreography is by Niara Hardister ’18 with PMA senior lecturer Jumay Chu, fight choreography by Jacob Lehman, and set design by PMA professor Kent Goetz.

Performances are Nov. 10-11 and 16-17 at 7:30 p.m., and Nov. 18 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. in the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts’ Flex Theatre. Tickets ($15 general, $8 students, senior citizens and Cornell faculty, staff and alumni) are available at and the box office, open Monday-Saturday, 1 to 8 p.m. at 403 College Ave., Ithaca.

All evening performances (except Nov. 17) include a post-show discussion with Maggor in conversation with a Cornell faculty member or guest scholar, offering political and cultural contexts for the play.

Media Contact

Lindsey Hadlock