SHAKESPEARE'S WILL to Run 5/23-8/24 at Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre

SHAKESPEARE'S WILL to Run 5/23-8/24 at Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre

Artistic Director Tony Simotes kicks off a celebratory season in honor of the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth with Shakespeare's Will, directed by Daniela Varon and featuring Kristin Wold. This provocative one-woman play by Canadian Playwright Vern Thiessen imagines the bold and unapologetic journey of Shakespeare's enigmatic wife, Anne Hathaway, and the couple's unconventional courtship and marriage. Performances run in the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre May 23 - August 24.

450 years after his birth, Shakespeare's works continue to survive and his popularity continues to accelerate with uncountable works of scholarship, criticism, and literature that he has inspired. No other artist has ever had so much written about him, but the facts we have about William Shakespeare of Stratford are surprisingly few and the facts we have about his wife Anne Hathaway, are even fewer. Married to the greatest wordsmith of all time, Hathaway may well have been illiterate; no words of hers survive. However, we do have Shakespeare's last will and testament, amended in March 1616, about a month before his death.

An exploration of Anne Hathaway's mind and heart, Shakespeare's Will illuminates an unexplored aspect of Shakespeare's world, giving voice to the woman who spent 34 years married to a genius she rarely saw-a genius who notoriously bequeathed her his "second-best bed." Award-winning playwright Vern Thiessen sets the play in 1616 in Stratford-upon-Avon, drawing inspiration from historical facts and from Shakespeare's last will and testament. However, Shakespeare's Will is not a biography: it is an irreverent and imaginative journey of conjecture, filled with poetry, wit and song. "In this piece," says Varon, "Vern Thiessen does what playwrights do: he gives Anne his own words and, in so doing, he gives her a voice."

Longtime Berkshire resident and Company actor Kristin Wold (King Lear, The Tempest, Sea Marks) takes on the role of Anne Hathaway in this powerful one-woman show, guided by the astute hand of director Daniela Varon (Romeo and Juliet, Sea Marks, Martha Mitchell Calling). Vern Thiessen is one of Canada's most successful playwrights, having received numerous awards including the Governor General's Literary Award, Canada's highest honor for playwriting.

For tickets, Gift Cards and information about the 2014 Performance Season: visit www.shakespeare.org, or call the Box Office at (413) 637-3353, or stop by in person at 70 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA. Ticket prices range from $10 to $80, with discounts from 10-50% off regular ticket prices for Groups, Students, Seniors, Teachers and the Military. Our very popular 40% Off Berkshire County Residents' Discount will again be available. Both the Playhouse and Bernstein theatres are wheelchair accessible and hearing-aid assisted.

To learn more about the season, discount availability, to order tickets or request a season brochure, visit www.shakespeare.org. Groups: For bookings, parties, and special event rental information and details contact David Joseph, Director of Sales & Group Tours, at (413) 637-1199 ext. 132 or groupsales@shakespeare.org.

"Playwright Vern Thiessen bases Shakespeare's Will on what little is known of the life of Anne Hathaway," says Varon. "But he would be the first to tell you that he plays fast and loose with even those few facts and their meaning. His play is not a biography. Thiessen's Anne is no more the historical Anne than Shakespeare's Richard III was the historical Richard. Shakespeare's Will is a work of imagination and exploration, and the writer's goal is to imagine and explore the journey of a woman who faces adversity and rises above it, struggling all the while to find faith in herself and keep faith with her ideals."

"Theater critic and theorist Jan Kott famously wrote a book called Shakespeare Our Contemporary," adds Varon, "which interprets Shakespeare's plays through the events and experiences of the 20th century and of his own life as a 20th century man. I believe Thiessen goes in search of 'Mrs. Shakespeare Our Contemporary,' imagining an unconventional woman and her unconventional marriage through the prism of our own times, bringing Anne into the modern age as he brings us into hers."

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