The Atlanta Shakespeare Company at The Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse announces their special April 2023 production, BY MY WILL, a new divine comedy that explores the source of Shakespeare’s genius.

Speakeysie News Desk – March 28, 2023

By My Will
By Douglas Post
Directed by Artistic Director Jeff Watkins

$15 General Admission Preview Thursday April 6, 2023
$20 General Admission Preview Friday April 7, 2023

Performances April 8-30, 2023

No show on Easter Sunday April 9, 2023

For hundreds of years, literary scholars and historians have debated the true authorship of Shakespeare’s plays.  In this new Comedy, commissioned by ASC’s Artistic Director Jeff Watkins, an assortment of 16th century playwrights, poets and regal figures meet up in a unique location to determine who among them may have written the works attributed to the man from Stratford.  It’s a veritable comic vivisection of the authorship question with twists, turns, and bawdy humor.

From Artistic Director Jeff Watkins’ point of view, doubts have abounded about the authorship question since the mid-19th century. “Many of our audience members have been curious and brave enough to explore those doubts with me over the years so I wanted to create a fun evening at  the theatre delving into it with them.” On a personal note, this has been a chance to reconnect with an old college friend and artistic comrade with whom he hasn’t worked with for 40 years. “It’s an honor and a privilege for an Artistic Director to be able to commission a new work for their theatre. And while in the history of our company it has not been unheard of to commission plays, it has been a long time. I hope we’re the launching pad for this play to go on to greater and greater successes.” 

Cast

William Shakspere- Andrew Houchins

Edward de Vere- Vinnie Mascola

Christopher Marlowe- Kevin Roost

Anne Hathaway/ Queen Elizabeth I- Kathleen McManus

Aemilia Bassano Lanier / Eliza de Vere- Amee Vyas

Thomas Kyd- O’Neil Delapenha

John Lyly- Kenneth Wigley

Understudies- Kelly Clare Toland and Mary Ruth Ralston

About the playwright

Douglas Post’s plays, which include Bloodshot, Cynical Weathers, Drowning Sorrows, Earth and Sky and Murder in Green Meadows, and musicals, which include God and Country, The Real Life Story of Johnny de Facto and The Wind in the Willows, have been produced in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Canada, England, Wales, Germany, Austria, Russia, China, and South Africa. He has also been commissioned to write screenplays for Warner Bros. and NBC, teleplays for WMAQ-TV and several radio adaptations of his scripts. On three occasions, he has been selected to develop his work at the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and once at the O’Neill National Music Theater Conference. He has received the L. Arnold Weissberger Playwriting Award, the Midwestern Playwrights Festival Award, the Cunningham Commission Award, the Blue Ink Playwriting Award and three Playwriting Fellowship Awards from the Illinois Arts Council, and he has been nominated for three Joseph Jefferson Awards and an Emmy Award. Post lives in Chicago where he is a founding member of the Victory Gardens Playwrights Ensemble, teaches playwriting at the University of Chicago Graham School and has composed songs and incidental music for more than 25 productions.

Q&A with playwright Douglas Post

Douglas, did you learn anything interesting or surprising while writing the play? How has writing this been different from writing other plays?

There is an adage in my line of work that states, “You never learn how to write a play. You only learn how to write this play.” I take great heart in this precept as it means the playwright has to come at every endeavor with a fresh set of eyes and figure it out along the way. And so the challenges are always new. In the case of By My Will, I read dozens of texts, plays and collections of poetry, and did a lot of serious thinking and taking of notes. At some point the characters I imagined would be a part of this story began to speak to me and my responsibility was to transcribe their words as fast as possible. I knew that the piece wanted to be a comedy. And I knew it had to have a series of twists and turns that would hopefully delight our audience and keep them guessing. And, yes, everything I learned was interesting and surprising, so the trick was figuring out how much of this information could be supported within the structure of the script. Perhaps of greatest interest was the fact that being a playwright in Elizabethan England had very little value in and of itself.

Writers for the theatre were looked down upon as were the people who went to see their plays. Poets were held in high esteem, but playwrights were not. And yet it was a golden age with a clear progression from the work of John Lyly to Thomas Kyd to Christopher Marlowe to the scripts we attribute to Shakespeare. None of this could have happened without Elizabeth’s blessing.

How do you and Jeff know each other?

Jeff and I were undergraduate students in the Speech and Drama Department at Trinity University, San Antonio, TX, where we acted together in a number of productions including Child’s Play, Stage Door and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It was while working on

Cuckoo’s Nest, and playing two of the more seriously disturbed patients in a mental institution, that we became great friends. For our annual festival of one-act plays, Jeff elected to direct a musical I wrote and composed titled Something in the Wind. Subsequently, we were cast in a production of Romeo and Juliet, with Jeff playing Mercutio and me playing Romeo.

Upon graduation, we decided that we wanted to keep working together in San Antonio and so I wrote a rock musical adaptation of The Tempest that was produced at the Carver Community Cultural Center. Jeff played Prospero and I directed. I then wrote a sci-fi play titled Avatros that was staged at Le Bistro in El Mercado and this time I performed the lead role while Jeff directed.

We both moved to Chicago in the early 1980s and got our rock version of The Tempest produced at the Leo A. Lerner Theater. We were in residence at this theater for a full season and produced two other shows – The Other Wise Man, another one-act musical of mine based on the novella by Henry Van Dyke, and an improvisational comedy called Eunice the 8th. Jeff and I were also cast in a production of Julius Caesar at Chicago City Theatre in which he played Artemidorus and I played Antony.

According to my math, By My Will will be the twelfth show we’ve worked on together and it seems fitting to me that it all started with Cuckoo’s Nest as one has to have a slightly skewed take on reality to go into this business.

What can audiences expect from this production?

This may be a question that is better put to Jeff, but my hope is that they will be caught up in the predicaments of our people and in the arguments they lay out. We’re exploring the authorship question from a number of different points of view and we’re doing it in a way that is intended to be highly entertaining. And all of this is taking place in a strange setting that is keenly off kilter so anything can happen and it frequently does.

Why should people see this play?

It will introduce you to a colorful assortment of regal and literary characters from the Elizabethan era and inspire you to think through some issues related to the writing of  Shakespeare’s plays that you may not have previously considered. It will provoke conversation.

And it will provide some serious laughs.

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