Saturday, July 22, 2000

Pig Parade: Hamlet

Shakespearean swine survives plot twists

By Owen Findsen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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        This is 84th in a series spotlighting pigs from the Big Pig Gig Public Art Project in Cincinnati, Covington and Newport. Find past pig profiles and event details at

        Alas poor Yorick, he's lost his head. Artist Brian Heim's Hamlet pig was designed to hold a real pig skull, duplicating the graveyard scene in Shakespeare's play when Hamlet holds the skull of his friend, Yorick the jester.

        But the best laid plot often ends in tragedy. The pig skull was purloined just days after Hamlet made his debut on the sidewalk in front of Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival theater. Then the pig was vandalized, cracked at the base. It was removed for repair and is back in place, with Hamlet holding only the lower jaw of the pig head.

        Artist: Brian Heim, 27, Northside.

        Sponsor: A friend of Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival.

        This pig's pen: In front of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, 717 Race St., downtown.

        You were inspired by: I've been doing drawings and illustrations for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, so when the idea of doing a pig came up, I was first in line. I wanted a real pig skull so I found a pig head at a butcher shop, borrowed my grandmother's pressure cooker and boiled it for about seven hours. It was a really strong smell.

        You want people to look at this pig and think: I'd like them to think about theater and about Hamlet.

        Completing the project took: About three weeks.

        Swine over matter: A real pig's head, just the jaw now, a real sword, bolted to the pig so it can't be stolen, spray foam for the clothes and metal screening for the collar. Words from Hamlet's monologues are written in silver around his clothes, as if they are stitched in thread.

        Your high on the hog was: Talking to other artists, trading ideas and helping each other. This is the most cooperation I've seen in the arts in Cincinnati.

        Pig peeve: The sanding was bad. I even got fiberglass dust on my eyelids. But nothing was as bad as having to boil that pig head.

        Best pig tale: I was going to be on television with the pig so I went down to clean it off, and I saw that there were lipstick prints on the face where somebody kissed it.

        My favorite pork dish: After boiling that pig head, I can't think about eating pork.

        What artistic movement most affected the outcome of this pig? Theatrical costume design.

        The materials cost: $500 to $600.

        Do you consider this art or porkography? It's art. It's theater.

        If your pig starred in a movie, who would you cast to play the role? Marni Penning Minadakis. She played Hamlet at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival a few seasons ago and she's the biggest ham I know.


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