The problem of saving Ophelia feels unsolvable. Hamlet dismisses her youth, presumes her weakness, considers her suicide an inevitability; the play’s disinterest in her desperation and madness borders on contempt. My work reframes and reinvents this familiar narrative in small, handmade installations, seeking to disrupt the meaning of the canon without changing a word of the text. Hamlet is a wooden tool chest, an old steamer trunk, a musty shoe box. I maintain its shape and surface, but find space for Ophelia in the empty, hidden areas within. With paper and wax, thread and fabric, wood and clay, I attempt to redirect her feet from the water’s edge.
I have this gnawing, insistent empathy for Ophelia. Delicate, fleeting, fearsome--I see in her an ever-receding lineage of mothers and grandmothers. These are the women who taught me that stories are far from frivolous invention, but rather the warp and weft of our lived experience, and that finding space for oneself within them—often in margins and between parentheses—is a mechanism of survival.
Ophelia’s story is marked by prolonged absences and silent interludes, even her death is reported rather than witnessed. In each pause, there is room for addition and interpretation, a wealth of unspoken soliloquies. I am working to realize each in drawings, cut paper portraits, carved wooden figures. And when one of these small stories has the viability to stand next to Hamlet instead of within it, I bring that imagery into a theatrical scale, fabricating costume and prop pieces to outfit this formidable heroine.