The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1369 Thursday, 1 July 2004
Date: Wednesday, 30 Jun 2004 12:01:43 -0400
Subject: Or Not To Be: The lamentable tale of a $250K Hamlet
Or Not To Be
The lamentable tale of a $250K Hamlet that played two nights and will
never be forgotten
by Steven Leigh Morris
Francesco Vitali, a would-be star of stage and screen, returned to his
Bel Air home on the night of March 19, to the following phone message,
which he saved for either posterity or the warm feelings it evoked:
"Take my name off the fucking production, you fat bastard. You'll never
see me again. You're going to have to beg me to come back to your piece
of shit fucking show. Fuck you, Frankie." Vitali settled into a
bathrobe, watched the moonlight playing across his garden and reflected
on the challenges of making art, the difficulties of doing small theater
in Los Angeles, and how events had led to such a dire circumstance.
The phone message was like an exclamation point on the end of a bad day
that had seen Vitali and his haughty British director nearly come to blows.
There was no turning back, though. After all, for close to a month, 12
strategically placed billboards promoting a production of Hamlet to be
staged at the 85-seat Tamarind Theater had towered above various city
streets - the most conspicuous being a tight shot on the brooding face
of Greek-born actor/executive producer Francesco Vitali kissing Yorick's
skull that lorded over a tony strip of Sunset Boulevard near Crescent
Heights. That single billboard cost either $33,000 or $38,000, depending
on whether you believe the Viacom rep or Vitali. Either way, it cost
more than the entire budget of most small-theater productions in the
city. . . .
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