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To beat, or not to beat? • Brooklyn Paper

To beat, or not to beat?

O, what a rogue and peasant slave is Carolyn Dellinger, who plays Ophelia, to John Stillwagon, who plays Hamlet, in “Slings and Arrows,” the Genesis Repertory Theater’s rendition of Shakespeare’s classic — only set in a bondage dungeon!
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Deciding whether to be or not to be is so much harder when you’re getting whipped by a dominatrix.

Yet that’s exactly what a leather shorts-clad Hamlet is forced to do in “Slings and Arrows,” a film adaptation of the Shakespeare classic set in Brooklyn’s underground fetish community and produced by the Bay Ridge theater troupe Genesis Repertory.

In the 25-minute short, which was filmed in a Victorian mansion on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope, the bare-chested prince delivers his famous monologue on life and death while in the thrall of a sultry seductress, then confronts his panties-wearing lady love, Ophelia, in the play’s so-called nunnery scene.

The film’s star, John Stillwaggon, said he was nearly as tormented as the heir apparent himself over taking the role — but soon discovered that fetishism’s themes of bondage and submission resonated with Hamlet’s crazy quest for power and freedom.

“It was frightening at first because I didn’t know what it was going to feel like,” said Stillwaggon, of being dominated by a mystery woman while reciting the best-known verses in the English language. “But it fit very well with Hamlet’s character.”

The movie might be racy, but don’t expect an X-rated affair: Stillwaggon and his real-life girlfriend Carolyn Dellinger, who portrays Ophelia, don’t get naked on screen, according to Mary Micari, Genesis Repertory’s artistic director.

“The movie is sexual but it’s more spooky and dark [than erotic],” she said.

The film is a first for Micari and Jay Michaels, who started Genesis Repertory in a studio at the Block Institute on Bay 44th Street in 1999 — with a production of Hamlet set in Washington D.C. circa 1963. Michaels said the troupe’s modern takes on standards like “Guys and Dolls,” and “The Merchant of Venice” have since become popular with Southern Brooklyn’s thespians and theater novices alike.

“There’s very little professional theater in the area,” Michaels said. “Our goal is to create a neighborhood [arts scene].”

Genesis Repertory’s new film division is already hard at work on a mobster-themed adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” set in 1980s New Jersey. The company’s Hamlet flick will premiere at the Cinekink Film Festival in Manhattan next month.

Genesis Repertory at the Block Institute, [376 Bay 44th Street between Shore Parkway and Hunter Avenue in Bay Ridge, (347-492-0534]. For more info, visit www.genesis-repertory.org genesis-repertory.org/.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

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