"Sheep, dogs, a field, the body. Sixty minutes of pure wonder"
- Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, culturebot.org, 2016
is a full-length outdoor performance spectacle that weaves dance, visual and theatrical elements with aspects from competitive sheep herding trials. The work is performed by Diane Cox, Diane Frank, Ryan Tacata, Peter Schmitz, Imre Hunter-To, three herding dogs, Wull, Lala and Monk and a flock of sheep. Doggie Hamlet recalls the bucolic impression of a landscape painting or a 3D pastoral poem. The sheep, the dogs, the human performers, and the earth's surface are at once performing as themselves and as living symbols in this work. Through story, motion, site and stillness Doggie Hamlet explores instinct, sentience, attachment, and loss.
The initial inspiration for Doggie Hamlet is the 2008 novel, “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle,” by David Woblewski. His novel centers around a family that raises and trains working dogs. This poetic novel borrows from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Kipling’s Jungle book. Doggie Hamlet plays loosely with elements from this story, embedding the “borrowing” of Hamlet while also borrowing elements from the novel. The central character in the Sawtelle story is Edgar, a boy who can hear but is mute. He communicates through a rough version of American Sign Language. The tensions of this central character are the shared ground for all the performers in Doggie Hamlet. They work between multiple tensions: between an intuitive intelligence and an inability to communicate; between wildness and domestication; between a spoken language and a gestural one.
Preview performances were produced by Vermont Performance Lab in September, 2016. Doggie Hamlet premiered on June 29, 2017 at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, and went on to be seen on July 7, 8 and 9, 2017, presented by Dancer's Workshop, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on the Snake River Ranch. On February 3 and 4, 2018, Doggie Hamlet was presented by the Center for the Art of Performance, UCLA, at Will Rogers State Park. On June 3 and 4, 2018 Doggie Hamlet was presented by The Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA as part of the International Center for the Arts. Future performances of Doggie Hamlet are planned for Utah Presents in Salt Lake City, Utah and Wesleyan University in Middleton, CT in the fall of 2019.