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Behind the scenes look at "Fat Ham," a riff on Shakespeare's "Hamlet"

The Heartbeat: Behind the scenes look at "Fat Ham"
The Heartbeat: Behind the scenes look at "Fat Ham" 03:00

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Here on Broad Street, The Wilma Theater is transformed into a southern cookout and all are invited! Food certainly brings people together, but this groundbreaking script displays diversity and calls on the attributes of identity, resilience and eventually love. 

Therefore, Philly is where this play belongs! This is Fat Ham's homecoming! 

Our city is the perfect place to showcase the authenticity of who we are and become embraced by it. "Fat Ham" is bold. It's honest just like its playwright, James Ijames. 

"Fat Ham" is his Shakespeare rendition of Hamlet that has become reimagined, challenging the best of us to dig deep. Nothing was stopping James from exposing the world to this piece of his heart. 

Who would have guessed this little writer from North Carolina would eventually make his home in Philly and create a life and family among this Temple alumni? 

This former actor-turned-writer began formulating many a script which allowed him the capability to write as genuinely as an actor would perform. 

This Pulitzer Prize-winning play hit the screen before Broadway, causing both ripples and a community with its relatable heart-wrenching vulnerability and unapologetic strength as it challenges societal norms. 

Due to the pandemic, this irrepressible writer packed up to head to Virginia where he, along with his cast and crew, was determined to debut "Fat Ham." They call it the "streaming theater." I've never heard the term, but it couldn't be any more appropriate. 

"Fat Ham" exploded and when the theaters reopened, they found themselves on Broadway. Some say COVID-19 helped accelerate the fame of this play while others are confident it would have gained the much-deserved recognition it was destined for. And Philly rightfully boasts you can celebrate their homecoming here on Broad Street! 

Much love to this Wilma co-art director, Lindsay Smiling, as he plays the dual role of Pap/Rev. Lindsay is one of the original cast members and still going strong as "Fat Ham" makes play No. 3 of James's! 

The chemistry James has amongst this cast is undeniable, reciprocal respect. Within this group of Temple graduates is familiarity and trust. During isolated interviews, they praised one with authenticity and genuine love. 

We can attest that his performers are perfectly casted for their characters! Juicy is the nucleus of "Fat Ham" that grapples with a spectrum of emotions. As Brenson Thomas explains, he is emotional but trusted the writing of James, he was able to confidently step into this multi-layered character and find fun in it. You will contemplate vengeance with him, you will search for self-identify with him, you will deeply laugh along with him, and you will love with him. 

With Amina Robinson's direction, she and Brenson's innate desire to collaborate on and off the stage, the audience becomes just another guest at this intimate BBQ. Professional chemistry was flying throughout rehearsal and overflowed into the showing. Amina was handpicked by James to direct this homecoming for "Fat Ham" and opening night was electric due to the collaborations on everyone's part. There's so much trust within this cast that every once in a while, you may experience something new; keep your eyes on Rev! 

The Wilma was the perfect venue for "Fat Ham" as it embraces the audience in a very engaging Shakspearian way by addressing the audience. Every seat allows you to partake in this cookout; the way it should be! 

James has taken his love for playwriting and poured it over his cast and crew. His heart is exposed and when you RSVP yes to this cookout, yours will be too. 

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