Have you ever thought about what Macbeth would be like if it was written in the style of Dr. Seuss? Apparently, the answer is a play … and the start of an incredible literary partnership. Welcome Jamie Dare, the writing partner of our very own Christina Hamlett, as she tells us the story of how Hamlett & Dare originated, who her favourite literary characters are, and more!
Interviewer: Sophie Lin
Q: What’s the story of how your partnership with Christina came to be?
A: I like to take writing classes whenever I can, and on a particularly auspicious day in 2012, I landed in one of Christina’s seminars. We got along well, and after the course had finished, she approached me about co-writing a play. It took me about two nanoseconds to say yes, and a few short weeks later, we’d completed Meet the Macbeths, the first of three “Seussspeare” plays we penned for Pioneer Drama Service. (Shakespearean tales told in Dr. Seuss rhyme).
Q: How do you come up with the ideas for your stories and plays?
A: In the most haphazard ways possible! Current events provide an endless stream of ideas. I’m also a big fan of incongruity (odd sentence, I know), and combining disparate elements is a favorite way to generate story ideas. What ifs are also helpful. ‘What if Dr. Jekyll crossed paths with—not Mr. Hyde, but the entire cast of Pride and Prejudice? And what if we added, say, a matchmaker into the mix?’ The answer, of course, is Hyde & Prejudice.
Q: How did you get into playwriting?
A: My background is in television writing, and playwriting is a natural extension of that. Both have a lean, economical approach to storytelling which I find appealing, and I like that plays are driven by character and dialogue.
Q: What do you have to say about the fact that drama and arts programs in schools are often some of the first victims of budget cuts?
A: I’ve seen this firsthand with my kids’ schools, and it drives me bonkers. Imagine a world with no movies, no TV shows, no music, no art. What a drab existence that would be. On the plus side, I’ve seen some wonderful arts programs at the secondary school level. Middle and elementary school as well. The talent and resources are definitely out there. We just need to keep fighting for these programs, keep being an advocate.
Q: Who or what inspires you to write?
A: Other artists. There is nothing more motivating than good writing—across all genres. I love reading a good book, or watching a good movie, and thinking, “Man, I wish I’d written that.” It inspires me to sit down and try to create. Thank goodness for other people.
Q: Who is your favourite character from one of your books or plays and why?
A: I didn’t create this character, of course, but Elinor Dashwood from Séance and Sensibility. I relate to her dry wit and quiet practicality. Stuff me into a muslin gown, and I’d be Elinor. For original characters, I’d have to say Serafina Moore, the pop star diva in Fandemonium (a play examining the pitfalls of celebrity worship). Serafina is most definitely a flawed character—those are the most fun to write—but she appeals to the frustrated performer in me.
Q: In Séance and Sensibility, you bring the paranormal into a Jane Austen classic. What prompted you to make this particular change for your spoof?
A: Christina and I were riffing one day on haunted hotels. She’s had some interesting supernatural encounters, whereas I barely have control of my five senses, let alone a sixth. Anyway, the paranormal was on our minds when we were brainstorming ideas for an Austen-esque spoof, and it seemed perfectly natural to give impulsive, passionate Marianne Dashwood a crystal ball.
Q: What do you hope your readers will take away or learn from your writing?
A: Christina and I have a lot of fun when we’re writing—it’s one of the perks to writing comedies—and I hope that energy translates to our readers and audiences. With our adaptations, I hope the audience is inspired to visit (or re-visit) the original source material.
Q: Who is one character from a play that you think you’d be good friends with in real life?
A: Ophelia. So I could talk some sense into her.
Q: Are there any other projects you’re working on right now?
A: I’m developing a pilot called Low End of Normal, a comedy about a dysfunctional family which bears no resemblance whatsoever to my own. Christina and I also just wrapped Price of Admission, a full-length play (a drama) about the ultra-competitive nature of college admissions. And of course, we always have ideas percolating for other pop culture/classic tale mash-ups. Stay tuned for details.
Q: Where can people find more information about you and your books?
A: Please check out hamlettanddare.wordpress.com and www.authorhamlett.com. And please visit the good folks at https://www.pioneerdrama.com (Pioneer Drama Service) https://www.brookpub.com (Brooklyn Publishers), and https://heartlandplays.com (Heartland Plays).
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: It’s an honor to be included amongst these talented writers. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me!