'Hamlet' is depressing, but to these refugees, it was a welcome escape.

A persistent mist fell on the audience, many of whom were bundled up in jackets and scarves. But the wintry weather would not dampen the spirit of the day. Not today. The large crowd gathered and waited in wonder for those six magic words to transport them somewhere else.

Anywhere else.


"To be, or not to be."

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

The actors stepped onto the small, humble stage. No lights. Only makeshift curtains. Every footstep echoing on plywood boards.

It wasn't Broadway or the West End, but to them, it didn't matter.

"To be, or not to be."

That was the question.

But the answer was bigger than an old play. Much bigger.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

They were performers from Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and they were in "the Jungle," a large refugee camp in Calais, France.

Shakespeare's Globe is on a mission to perform Hamlet in every country on Earth. Yes, every single one. Though the group has a performance scheduled in Paris later this week, they added Calais, which is 182 miles away from the city, as a stop on their world tour.

The Jungle encampment houses refugees from all over the world, many of whom made dangerous journeys from their home countries.

The encampment is one of the largest refugee outposts in the world, home to 6,000 people, including many from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, and North Africa.

A South Sudanese man prepares a fire in his shelter. Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images.

Inside the Jungle, refugees wait in bureaucratic limbo. Many have applied for asylum in France, while others seek permanent homes in the United Kingdom. The camp, which opened in 2015, was immediately overcome with people, resulting in food, water, and shelter shortages. There are few storage options and no refrigeration, so food-borne illnesses are common. Hygiene is also lacking, as there are few washing facilities and only one toilet for every 75 people.

"Refugees are hungry and distressed and they live in diabolical conditions," Leigh Daynes, director of Doctors of the World, told The Guardian. "Their suffering is all the more acute because the often perilous journeys they undertook to get to France were physically arduous and emotionally fraught."

Hemn, a Kurdish migrant, keeps warm in the Jungle. Photo by Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images.

Individuals and nonprofits have stepped up to bring positivity and activity — like theater performances — to the camp.

On Wednesday, Good Chance Calais, a nonprofit that brings music, art, and theater events to the Jungle, welcomed performers from the Globe to its stage for a production of Shakespeare's "Hamlet."

It's part of Globe to Globe Hamlet, a two-year effort to perform "Hamlet" in all 196 countries. The project began in April 2014 and will conclude this April at the renowned Globe Theatre in London, where many of Shakespeare's plays were first performed.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

"Globe to Globe Hamlet was created with the aim of performing "Hamlet" to as many people as possible, in as diverse a range of places as possible," Director Dominic Dromgoole said in a statement.

"The central principle of the tour is that Shakespeare can entertain and speak to anyone, no matter where they are on earth; and that no country or people are not better off for the lively presence of Hamlet."

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

So far on their 150,000-mile journey, the Shakespeare's Globe has performed Hamlet for more than 100,000 people around the world.

The show has a diverse cast, allowing men and women of different ethnicities and backgrounds to see a bit of themselves in the production, often for the first time.

Whenever possible, Shakespeare's Globe stages the shows for free, performing for 3,000 people at the National Theatre in Khartoum, Sudan, and for schoolchildren in Myanmar, Belize, and Tanzania.


This is not the first time the company has performed in a refugee camp, either. It traveled to Cameroon to perform for Central African Republic refugees, to Djibouti for the Yemeni people, and to the Zaatari camp on the border of Jordan and Syria.

Despite the dreary weather in Calais, more than 300 people attended the show.

It was standing-room-only for much of the performance. And the actors, no stranger to outdoor venues large and small, performed with gusto.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

Volunteers worked hard to make the event special, providing popcorn and synopses in multiple languages so as many people as possible could participate in the event.


While Shakespeare's Globe can't relieve global strife, the artists can provide a moment of calm in a stressful world.

Art may not stop wars or end famine. But it can and does offer a moment to relax. A moment to let imagination take hold and feel transported to another place and time. A moment to experience something that has entertained and connected people from all walks of life for centuries.

While the performance only lasted a short time, we can hope that the gift of peace and joy it provided, amid a backdrop of anything but, lasts much longer.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

When the COVID-19 pandemic socially distanced the world and pushed off the 2020 Olympics, we knew the games weren't going to be the same. The fact that they're even happening this year is a miracle, but without spectators and the usual hustle and bustle surrounding the events, it definitely feels different.

But it's not just the games themselves that have changed. The coverage of the Olympics has changed as well, including the unexpected addition of un-expert, uncensored commentary from comedian Kevin Hart and rapper Snoop Dogg on NBC's Peacock.

In the topsy-turvy world we're currently living in, it's both a refreshing and hilarious addition to the Olympic lineup.

Just watch this clip of them narrating an equestrian event. (Language warning if you've got kiddos nearby. The first video is bleeped, but the others aren't.)

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