Photo Flash: Anne Hathaway Lives Again In SHAKESPEARE'S WILL at HERE
NACL Theatre presents the New York City premiere of SHAKESPEARE'S WILL by award-winning Canadian playwright Vern Thiessen, whose acclaimed play Of Human Bondage premiered at Signature Theatre in a Soulpepper production in 2017. It stars Tannis Kowalchuk as Anne Hathaway, the woman who married William Shakespeare. Directed by Mimi McGurl, performances run though April 1 at HERE.
Loosely based on the few historical facts known about the Bard, Anne, and their family life, SHAKESPEARE'S WILL is a lively, humorous and emotional depiction of Anne Hathaway - accidental mother, proudly imperfect wife, and defiantly liberated woman in Elizabethan England. The play begins on the afternoon of Shakespeare's funeral. Anne knows she must read her husband's will, but before she does, the unreserved widow relives her colorful and unorthodox life.
Though it is written in verse, SHAKESPEARE'S WILL is not intended to be a historically accurate bio play. Playing "fast and loose" with history, playwright Vern Thiessen has used Hathaway's life "as a springboard for my own imagination and artistic goal - to explore the journey of a woman who faces adversity, rises above it and ultimately rekindles life in herself."
SHAKESPEARE'S WILL features costumes by Karen Flood and music composed by Kurt Knuth and Rima Fand. Ms. Fand will also accompany the performance with live sound affects (harkening back to Elizabethan stage foley) and perform musical instrumentation that mixes traditional English song with new musical compositions. This production is a part of SubletSeries@HERE: a curated rental program, which provides artists with subsidized space and equipment, as well as technical support.
The NACL production of SHAKESPEARE'S WILL has been performed at NACL Theatre in Highland Lake, NY; the Tusten Theatre in Narrowsburg, NY; Pontine Theatre in Portsmouth NH; the Cooperage in Honesdale, PA; Spring Island, SC; Moore's Barn in Callicoon, NY; and at colleges including SUNY Sullivan, SUNY Orange, and Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. The play originally premiered in 2005 at The Citadel Theater in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and was revised in 2007 for Canada's Stratford Festival. The US premiere was in Los Angeles at Theatre 40 in 2007, produced by Leonard Nimoy.
Vern Thiessen's plays have been seen across Canada, the US, Asia, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe, including Einstein's Gift, Lenin's Embalmers, Bird Brain, Vimy, Shakespeare's Will, Apple, Bello, and Of Human Bondage. He has had five plays produced off-Broadway. Vern has won the Dora Mavor Moore, Sterling, Carol Bolt, and Gwen Pharis Ringwood Awards for Outstanding New Play, as well as the Alberta Playwriting Competition and the Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition. He is also the recipient of the City of Edmonton Arts Achievement Award, the University of Alberta Alumni Award for Excellence, and the Governor General's Literary Award for Drama, Canada's highest honour for playwrights. He is Past President of both the Playwrights Guild of Canada and the Writers Guild of Alberta. He is currently Artistic Director of Workshop West Playwrights' Theatre in Edmonton, Canada.
Tannis Kowalchuk is co-founder and artistic director of NACL Theatre in Highland Lake, NY. Current projects include Courage, a site-specific spectacle based on Brecht's Mother Courage featuring an ensemble of 25 including Debra Winger (Governors Island 2017), and Brain Storm, a hybrid lecture-performance with neuroscientist Dr. Allison Waters. In 2014, with an NEA Our Town grant, Tannis conceived and directed The Weather Project focusing on climate change, performed by a cast of over 75 scientists, actors and community members. She continues to lead street theatre training and performance creation workshops open to everyone in her upstate community. Originally from Canada, Tannis trained in ensemble physical theatre practices of Primus Theatre in Canada and Odin Teatret of Denmark. Past work includes STRUCK (2013 at Cleveland Public Theatre and HERE in NYC), The Little Farm Show (2011), Self Portrait at County Fair (2009), The Uncanny Appearance of Sherlock Holmes (2008,) The Mystery of Lakewood House (2007). The Confessions of Punch and Judy (2004), 10 Brecht Poems (2003), and The Passion According to G.H. (2001). Tannis is an organic farmer and manages the cut flower production on Willow Wisp Organic Farm, which she co-owns with her husband.
MIMI McGURL is a freelance director, dramaturg and teacher. She has collaborated with NACL on Courage, The Weather Project, and The Lost Book of Lakewood House as dramaturg and assistant director. She has also served as dramaturg for LAVA Brooklyn, and directed plays at the Catskill Art Space (CAS), the Liberty Free Theatre, the WOW Cafe Theatre, 13th Street Rep, Chashama, the American Conservatory Theater (ACT), the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Theatre Rhinoceros, and Highways. She has been adjunct faculty at NYU, ACT's MFA program, Mills College, and at the University of California, Irvine where she received her MFA. Mimi has a PhD from Stanford University.
SHAKESPEARE'S WILL runs through April 1, Tuesday - Saturday at 7pm with 2pm matinees on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. HERE is located at 145 Sixth Avenue (enter on Dominick, 1 block south of Spring Street). Tickets are $25 / $15 for students. For tickets and information, visit here.org or call 212-352-3101.