Promo Code is active.

Fat Ham: From the Artistic Director

Dear Friends,
Welcome to Seattle Rep’s much-anticipated production of James Ijames’ Fat Ham. Written before the COVID-19 pandemic, Fat Ham premiered during lockdown first as a riotous film from Philadelphia’s Wilma Theater, and then in a production bursting with life at New York’s Public Theater, co-produced with the National Black Theatre. It continued its meteoric rise as one of the most buzzed about new American plays in decades with a transfer to Broadway, a Tony nomination for Best Play, and the honor of the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. And now Fat Ham touches down here at Seattle Rep, in our brand-new Seattle-made production built by our expert shops and featuring a cast of predominantly local actors. We’re building on our 60-year history of producing distinct interpretations of the best new American plays with local flair, and I cannot wait for you to experience this hilarious and exuberant production.   

20240321 FHrehearsal PREVIEW 1326 jbremh

Fat Ham takes its inspiration from a play that you might be familiar with: William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. (Not familiar? See “Fat Ham(let): What to know about Hamlet to understand Fat Ham.”) Transporting this timeless tragedy to a backyard barbecue in the southern United States, Ijames uses his immense talent as a writer to crack open Shakespeare’s original, making it a funny and poignant vehicle for exploring some of the most compelling dynamics of our own time. In Fat Ham, Ijames engages with a foundational revenge story of Western culture to ask how we might break the cycles of violence that harm our communities and keep us from living our most honest and abundant lives. He asks this question in the context of a specific Black community coming to terms with the death of a patriarch and living with traumatic legacies, passed down through the family and American history itself. The central character of Juicy follows in Hamlet’s footsteps, placed in an impossible situation by the ghost of his murdered father. A gentle person born into a world that prizes hardness, Juicy is commanded to carry on the cycles of violence that have marred his family for generations. And throughout Ijames’ play, like Hamlet from 400 years ago, Juicy grapples with the usefulness of action and questions his responsibility to his family, himself, and humanity at large.  

20240321 FHrehearsal PREVIEW 1348 tjpfrd

In case you were thinking that this sounds a little heavy, don’t worry—Fat Ham is also decidedly, pointedly, a comedy. Central to Ijames’ remixing of this classic play is a joyful and mischievous question: why does Hamlet have to end in tragedy? What ways of understanding the world are upheld by such an ending? Who benefits from all that death? Fat Ham unapologetically embraces joy and abundance.  

Bringing this story to life in all its complexity and unabashed joy is an ensemble of mostly local actors directed by beloved Seattle theater maker Timothy McCuen Piggee, who has previously directed A Raisin in the Sun (2016) and As You Like It (2019) at Seattle Rep. Timothy is joined by a bold and talented creative team, expertly conjuring the ecstatic and magical world of Ijames’ backyard barbecue on the Bagley Wright stage. With its powerhouse local cast and creative team, Fat Ham is part of a long tradition at Seattle Rep of producing timely productions of the most significant new plays, re-interpreted specifically for Puget Sound audiences. Fat Ham is a celebration of this spirit. 

20240321 FHrehearsal PREVIEW 1505 xc5wwt

And this is just the beginning. Six of the seven plays in our recently announced 2024/25 Season will be created specifically for you by Seattle theater makers in collaboration with peers from around the country. I hope you’ll check out next season’s lineup and make plans to come back to the theater soon—even better, subscribe to all seven shows! Until then, grab some brisket, prep your karaoke track, and enjoy the show. 

All my best,

Dámaso Rodríguez
Artistic Director 

 Fat ham tickets


Pictured: Members of the cast and creative team of Seattle Rep's Fat Ham. Reginald André Jackson, Aishé Keita, Chip Sherman, Dedra D. Woods, and Taj E.M. Burroughs in rehearsal for Fat Ham (2024). Reginald André Jackson and Taj E.M. Burroughs in rehearsal for Fat Ham (2024). Taj E.M. Burroughs in rehearsal for Fat Ham (2024). Photos by Sayed Alamy.