Brenda Adelman
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Brenda Adelman

Los Angeles, California, United States

Los Angeles, California, United States
Band Spoken Word


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The best kept secret in music


"My Brooklyn Hamlet"

The Carriageworks, Leeds

A black-and-white photo dominates the stage. It is Brenda Adelman’s father, standing in the kitchen, holding a .38 Smith & Wesson handgun. He used this gun to kill his wife. He shot her in the head. Six months later, he married her sister.

Then he went to prison for two-and-a-half years on an involuntary manslaughter plea bargain. Brenda and her brother sued him in the civil courts for their mother’s wrongful death. The court awarded them $2.2m, but dad hid his fortune so they never got a dime. Then he died. And then she forgave him.

That’s right, she forgave him.

This is Brenda Adelman’s true story. Everything so far, and plenty more, actually happened to the actress from New York, and she turned it into a one-woman, one-hour show.

To watch it unfold is gripping, emotionally draining and uplifting. Adelman recalls her father’s pride when he taught her to shoot when she was 10 – using the gun he would later use to kill her mother. She tells how she was constantly torn between her parents in a home filled with the love and hatred of a tempestuous marriage. And how the pain of childhood shaped a woman whose own relationships were based on extremes of sex and violence.

All the time there is the echo of that fatal gunshot ringing in our ears, and the knowledge that this is real, and these things really happened to the woman standing just a few feet away.

Yes, it is scripted, and yes she has performed it 1,000 times, and written a book, and set up a website and done a master’s degree in spiritual psychology. But none of that takes away from the unavoidable horror. My Brooklyn Hamlet – staged here as part of the Leeds International Performing Arts Festival before going to London – is inevitably more than a stage show. It is therapy, and truth proving itself stranger than fiction.

Adelman, brought up by her late mother with a love of Shakespeare, plays on the parallels with Hamlet – in which Claudius murders the hero’s father and marries his mother. The key difference is that while Hamlet is bent on revenge, Adelman ultimately sought to forgive her father. If any kind of remarkable twist were needed for such a story, that is it.
- John Jeffay

"My Brooklyn Hamlet"

Before the play begins we’re told this is a true story.

It’s a powerful starting point as this one-woman play often feels as though it is ripped straight from Greek tragedy or, more pertinently, Shakespearian drama.
After a lifetime of break-ups, ferocious arguments and passionate reconciliations, Brenda Adelman’s father shot her mother in the head and married the dead woman’s sister.

Strong stuff indeed, but what’s even more eyebrow raising is that Adelman herself is the writer and performer, so presenting a fascinating example of theatre as self-help.

Taking on the personas of feckless, skirt-chasing father and exasperated, bohemian-loving mum, Adelman also places her younger selves in the frame to present an engaging portrait of a dysfunctional Brooklyn family and moving pictures from the psychiatrist’s couch.

Carefully avoiding sensation or sentimentality, Adelman’s dialogue is direct...

...the power of the story carries us through, along with the winning personality of the flame-haired performer who seems to have successfully dealt with her demons and found a happier ending than the troubled Prince of Denmark.
- Published Wednesday 16 June 2010 at 12:08 by Jonathan Lovett


Brenda always thought of herself as a daddy’s girl – until he murdered her mum

THE scenario of a man killing his wife and some time later marrying the woman’s older sister is the sort of storyline one would expect to see on Eastenders.

But this bizarre state of affairs really happened to Brenda Adelman, whose show My Brooklyn Hamlet made such an impact at this year’s festival.

Brenda insists that she came from a happy family background in spite of her father killing her mother and then marrying her aunt.

And throughout the nightmare and trauma that followed the killing, which took place during the high holy days, Brenda claims the act of forgiveness was the catharsis that sustained and helped her own wounds to heal.

Actress Brenda had already left the Brooklyn family home eight months previously and made a life for herself in Los Angeles.

When she was 30, Brenda received news that changed her life. Her father had shot her mother, a photographer, in the head at point-blank range.

“I really loved both my parents and I adored my father so much, I was always ‘daddy’s little girl’ – so I was in total shock.

“My father’s lawyer was with him after the shooting, but didn’t inform the police till some eight hours after the killing, by which time my mother had been cleaned up and there were no clues.”

Brenda went into denial. Her father argued he and his wife were fighting and struggling with the gun and it went off. Brenda claims there was a cover up because the gun, the one that her father always carried around with him, simply vanished.

“The police said it wasn’t suicide because there was no gun-powder on my mother’s hands and my father claimed he did not remember who pulled the trigger,” she said.

“Nothing made sense. But I held on to that little thing of who pulled the trigger.

“My father pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was given a sentence of just two and a half years.

“He was a wealthy man so he had good lawyers who also represented the Mafia. I just wanted closure, but every time I broached the subject of what happened he would brush it aside saying the past is the past and he didn’t want to talk about it.”

Brenda said her parents always had a love-hate relationship and there was a lot of domestic violence at home.

She recalled her father holding the gun to her mother’s head on a couple of occasions when she was a teenager.

But her mother told her later it was a regular occurrence. Brenda was in her early 20s when her mother decided to leave her father but the quirky bohemian photographer was soon to return.

Brenda said: “When my mother eventually took him back I just thought she must have been lying about continually being threatened with the gun because why would she return if he did that to her?”

After the tragedy it crossed Brenda’s mind that her mother might have been killed somewhere else, not necessarily in her bedroom, because there was no sign of blood anywhere.

“When the killing occurred I kept thinking that it was my fault and that I was damaged, because if these were my parents and I loved them so much how could this have happened. I came to the conclusion that there must be something wrong with me. So I was the one who felt guilty.”

The defining moment for Brenda came when her father got out of prison and said he was going to take his daughter to court. He was going to claim one third of the money that his wife had left Brenda in her will, because he felt the money was rightfully his.

“It was then I recognised that my father was not the man I thought he was; the dad I really wanted to have back in my life.

“And I realised I needed to move out of being a victim into acceptance and start taking my life back.”

This resulted in My Brooklyn Hamlet, Brenda’s one-woman play which she describes as “very entertaining, very tragic and very New York”.

She said: “I found acting the roles of my parents and aunt on stage became cathartic and from my point of view a sort of therapy to see what they were really like.”

Her introduction to the William Shakespeare went back to childhood when her mother read the great plays to her daughter as bedtime stories.

“After the tragedy I turned to Hamlet because there I found a soul mate; someone who had experienced the same things that I had,” she said. “It was really a salvation for me and I owe that to my mother.

“As a child there was always a part of me that knew it wasn’t right that my parents were treating each other this way. I knew the difference from right and wrong and in some way that kept me sane.”

Brenda firmly believes there was a bigger picture that she couldn’t see. She knew that in witnessing her parent’s relationship there was this tumultuous love-hate issue between them and, instead of taking responsibility for their own actions, they chose to blame each other for what went wrong.

“I also realised that my parents were flawed and I tried to find out why th - Jewish Telegraph

"My Brooklyn Hamlet – Brenda Adelman’s story has shocking parallels with Shakespeare’s play"

A man shoots his wife dead and marries her sister…

Extraordinarily his daughter finds it in her heart to forgive him. And she is the winner in this unfolding tragedy for it takes his death to set her on the path to the forgiveness that will heal her.

Ultimately the audience at Brenda Adelman’s searing one-woman show are winners too as she shares her extraordinary true story…

Her father’s gun is a motif in young Brenda’s life for her father teaches her to use it when she is just ten years old. By this time her mother has taught her to recite her favorite excerpts from Shakespeare, a legacy she uses in the show to spellbinding effect..

Brenda does not just live to tell her tale, she is brave enough to share her journey to ‘truth and reconciliation’ and the way it has shaped her life, leading her for example to take a masters in spiritual psychology – and of course to write and perform My Brooklyn Hamlet. She morphs effortlessly into both parents and does not spare her audience the gory details of their relationship, or the depths of her own pain… thanks to her winning open personality and the simplicity and candor of her storytelling, nicely leavened with a disarming humor and her great personal charm, the parts add up to a gripping whole.
- By Judi Herman


Still working on that hot first release.



Award-winning Actress Brenda Adelman has a Master’s Degree in Spiritual Psychology, is the recipient of a Hero of Forgiveness award from The Hawaii International Forgiveness Project and has toured internationally with her acclaimed one-woman show “My Brooklyn Hamlet”. It’s based on her life story, when, in 1995, her father shot and killed her mother and then he quickly married her aunt. She found her way to peace, freedom and creative expression through practicing the art of forgiveness. She peppers soliloquies from Shakespeare’s most tragic play throughout this very New York story to emphasize the emotions that almost capsized her. Unlike Hamlet she prevails. Adelman’s performed, spoken and led workshops on Forgiveness and Setting Boundaries for several annual Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Coalitions, for the United States Air Force for spiritual communities, high school and college students and at theatres worldwide-including London and Vienna, Austria.