Normally, students pass the steps of Sproul, not giving it a second glance. The gray walls have blended into the surrounding and the only concern students have is which path will involve the smallest number of fliers. But on Friday, a decent number of students gathered around the steps of Sproul to watch a performance of Hamlet unlike any rendition done before.
An old Berkeley street performer, Space Cadet Billie was recruited by student Quinn Nagle to perform the monologue written by Shakespeare in a way that would allow Billie to express himself as well. Though the show only lasted about 20 minutes, the meaning behind the show stuck with the students.
“I didn’t realize he considered himself a performer and what he’s doing almost always has a purpose, and that showed me that a lot of people make bad first impressions. I didn’t really think much of this guy until he gave that pretty sick speech of following your heart which was inspirational,” said freshman Adam King. “I think the message of the intent to create this was really good in that you really have to get to know someone before you judge them, and that was really what I got out of it.”
The few students who were already aware of the event sat cross-legged, crowding around the steps, eagerly waiting for the show to begin. People who were passing by saw a growing crowd and stuck around out of sheer curiosity.
“I was heading somewhere, but I guess I can wait to see what this is about. It seems really interesting. I genuinely want to know who he is,” said freshman Judy Kim.
Adorned in striped boots, polka-dotted leggings, his superman tank and a blue cape, Space Cadet Billie took a few minutes before the show to warm up. After a few minutes of waving his arms around in a circular motion, he was ready. Nagle introduced Space Cadet Billie and informed students that Billie would be performing one version of the monologue that strictly sticks to the text and another rendition incorporating Billie’s own choreography.
“To be, or not to be, that is the question … ”
Giggles could be heard from the audience as students who were unaware of Billie prior to the show looked around, confused. The crowd slowly grew, with many students expressing increasing interest in the monologue. Billie started off strong, but he needed a little help from Nagle every now and then when he forgot a few of the lines. Encouraged by students’ enthusiasm and the growing crowd, Billie finished the first portion of the performance.
Nagle explained the purpose behind having a man in polka-dotted stripes perform a monologue of Hamlet, allowing Billie to “become his Hamlet,” said Nagle.
Taking another deep breath, Billie began what seemed to be his favorite part of the show. According to Nagle, Billie “was on fire” during the second show as he waved his arms around, screaming to the sky. After he said his last line, he explained why Hamlet’s piece was so important to him during the Q&A session.
According to Space Cadet Billie, the purpose of his monologue was to emphasize the importance of self expression and staying grounded. He wanted students to do what felt right rather than what they know is right. According to Billie, people are too distracted by the everyday hustle-and-bustle to do what they are meant to do, which they can only determine by eliminating these distractions.
Before Space Cadet Billie’s rendition of Hamlet, students didn’t realize he considered himself a street performer. They just saw a man in a costume, waving his arms around. It was through Nagle’s determination to bring a voice to the people of Sproul that students were able to take a peek into Billie’s mind and see the meaning behind the “crazy”.