A famous American theater has cast a black woman as Hamlet. It's not only historic, it looks cool.

In about two minutes, you may think to yourself, "I got to get to Philadelphia!"

Why?

The woman in the above picture is British-African actress Zainab Jah.


(It's pronounced "zay-nub jaw.")

Zainab is a spectacular human who has acted on TV and in movies, but currently she can be seen on stage at The Wilma Theater in Philadelphia.

She's performing in a production of Shakespeare's "Hamlet." *As* Hamlet.

She's one of the first (actually, at least the second!*) black woman ever to play the conflicted Prince of Denmark, making history in the theater world.

Shakespeare in a new light.

It's also probably the first time a black woman has played Hamlet in anything, anywhere in the professional theater world, but I could be wrong.*

*NOTE (12/16/2015): We were wrong, and we were delighted to note in a previous update (4/27/2015) that actress Melody Garrett shared the role of Hamlet in an all-student production of the play in 1992 at Yale Repertory Theatre. Thanks to Flora Stamatiades, with a confirmation from Yale Repertory's director of communications Steven Padla, we can also correct to note that the 1992 "Hamlet" production was the Yale Rep's season opener and, though performed by students, was a professional theater performance. This article has been amended to reflect this. Have other proof we're wrong? Email hello@upworthy.com!

If Zainab's (or Melody's!) casting catches you a bit off guard, here are two things to realize:

1. Way back in Elizabethan times, when "Hamlet" first was performed at Globe Theater, male actors played the all the female roles.

"Lying for a living" was considered too scandalous for a woman to do.

Lines too unseemly to escape a woman's lips included:

  • Katherine's "My tongue will tell the anger of my heart, or else my heart concealing it will break," from "Taming of the Shrew."
  • Ophelia's "Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads," from "Hamlet."
  • Juliet's "Wherefore art thou, Romeo?" from "Romeo and Juliet."

The truth was not a man's activity ... or something ... I guess?

That makes no sense.

I think we can all agree that was a silly law. The proof is in the receipts:

2. This minority, female-led production already has sold out almost every night of its run:

Wow. Better get a ticket now, if they aren't sold out already! The show ends May 2, 2015!

The play's success is in no small part thanks to Zainab and the rest of the women involved. This classic play is better for having them (and the rest of the cast) there.

And the crew is pretty great, too.

I'll say it again: This production looks so friggin' cool.

The sets incorporate graffiti by a street artist, CERA. Matt Saunders, the set designer, and Vasilija Zivanic, the costume designer, intended to create the feeling of a modern but also corrupt and Elizabethan society.

This helps illustrate the themes of vengeance, corruption, and decay that make "Hamlet" one of the most famous plays in existence.

Director Blanka Zizka cast Zainab for a great reason:

"I knew I needed an actor who possessed great presence and could easily transform onstage," she said.

"I made a list of actors I would like to see working with me and it eventually became very clear to me that Zainab was going to be my Hamlet," Blanka explained.

So, just to be clear, it wasn't to be different.

She chose the best person for the job, who just so happened to be Zainab.

The director also says that in her production, "Hamlet is not going to change gender because he's played by a woman," and she expects that Zainab is "going to transform into Hamlet."

I think she has. But, you can be the judge, too:

Simply put, everything I'm looking at is coolness defined.

Zainab rules the stage. As any prince should. So, go see this badass version of Hamlet!

"Hamlet" runs until May 2, 2015, at The Wilma Theater in Philadelphia.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

In the autumn of 1939, Chiune Sugihara was sent to Lithuania to open the first Japanese consulate there. His job was to keep tabs on and gather information about Japan's ally, Germany. Meanwhile, in neighboring Poland, Nazi tanks had already begun to roll in, causing Jewish refugees to flee into the small country.

When the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in June of 1940, scores of Jews flooded the Japanese consulate, seeking transit visas to be able to escape to a safety through Japan. Overwhelmed by the requests, Sugihara reached out to the foreign ministry in Tokyo for guidance and was told that no one without proper paperwork should be issued a visa—a limitation that would have ruled out nearly all of the refugees seeking his help.

Sugihara faced a life-changing choice. He could obey the government and leave the Jews in Lithuania to their fate, or he could disobey orders and face disgrace and the loss of his job, if not more severe punishments from his superiors.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Sugihara was fond of saying, "I may have to disobey my government, but if I don't, I would be disobeying God." Sugihara decided it was worth it to risk his livelihood and good standing with the Japanese government to give the Jews at his doorstep a fighting chance, so he started issuing Japanese transit visas to any refugee who needed one, regardless of their eligibility.

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