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Positively Philadelphia: Who's That Playing Hamlet at The Wilma?

By Lauren Lipton

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (CBS) -- A new production of "Hamlet" has opened at the Wilma Theater, in center city, and director Blanka Zizka's casting of the title role may be a historical first.

"One of the first things I said when Blanka asked me to do this, I kept saying no because I kept saying, 'Well, in case you haven't noticed, I'm an African woman,' " recalls Zainab Jah.

Jah is one of the few women to play the role of Hamlet in what many believe to be William Shakespeare's greatest play.  But that's only part of the significance.

"I've been doing all sorts of research to find out, have there been black women who've played Hamlet? I've seen black male Hamlets, and I've seen female Hamlets, but I've never seen a black female Hamlet," she tells Positively Philadelphia!


Zainab Jah and Sarah Gliko. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, provided)

Jah has lived in cities all over the world but loves Philadelphia, particularly around the area of the Wilma, at Broad and Spruce Streets, along the Avenue of the Arts.

"I love exactly where the Wilma is.  It's in this neighborhood where I can walk around, and there are restaurants and bars, and there is art everywhere.  I love Philadelphia! It's like a clean New York City [laughs].  I shouldn't say that."

Hamlet runs through April 26th at the Wilma Theater, 265 South Broad Street.  For more information call 215-546-7824.

Hear Lauren Lipton's extended interview with Zainab Jah in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 5:55)...


And for this week, that's "Positively Philadelphia!"

"Positively Philadelphia" main page


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