Party On! ‘Will on the Hill’ at the Shakespeare Theatre Company

The annual mashup of theater and politics provides good fun for a good cause.

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Romeo and Juliet, Beatrice and Benedick, and even (don’t say it) Macbeth were on hand for a Shakespearean love fest on Monday night, all to benefit the wonderful education programs the Shakespeare Theatre Company sponsors. This is the sixteenth year for this fundraiser, which combines professional actors with politicians, reporters, and policymakers in a festive parody of a Shakespeare play.

The evening began with a knockout performance by students from STC’s Text Alive! Program. It is a free, semester-long course teaching high schoolers to understand, analyze, and perform Shakespeare. Cast members from Charles Herbert Flowers High School brought us a 1990s Twelfth Night dance party in full swing, and wow, could they move! (See below for a full cast listing.)

Text Alive! Students from Charles Flowers High School performing a scene from Twelfth Night. Photo by Kevin Allen.
Text Alive! Students from Charles Flowers High School performing a scene from Twelfth Night. Photo by Kevin Allen.

Text Alive! Deejay Marky-Mark (Marc Rampersaad) blasted his tunes with style. To add to the revels, Obed Gant (Sir Toby Belch), D’Mari Harris (Sir Andrew), Cayla Hall (Maria), Donte’ Bynum (Malvolio), and Ryan Hubbard (Fabian) gave us a spirited rendition of Malvolio’s “letter scene.” Bynum is a splendidly comic Malvolio, although he never gets around to actually reading the letter, which in this case isn’t missed much. Congratulations to Student Director Shante Prince, English/Drama Teacher Ms. Shanelle D. Ingram, and the entire creative team.

Then My Kingdom for a Farce, an original story by Michael Trottier (with assistance from West Wing Writers) gets underway. The concept is a clever one, and Director Craig Baldwin takes full advantage: Campaign Manager Rich (Ken Clark), the talented King Arthur from STC’s summer hit Camelot, has brought together a plethora of Shakespeare characters for interviews. The goal: a job with a mysterious candidate’s campaign (more about that later). Recruiter C (Heath Saunders, a superb Feste in STC’s Twelfth Night) is in charge of the Comedy team, which features Viola (Marla Allard), Rosalind (Christina Sevilla), and Puck (Ron Christie) among others. T, the Tragedy Team, is led by Victoria Frings, the memorable Celimene in David Ives’ The School for Lies.  It includes Coriolanus (Gregory Angelo), Iago (Steve Case), and Macbeth (Sen. Chris Coons). It’s an all Shakespeare campaign!

Steve Clemons, a commentator for The Atlantic, as the Player King from Hamlet, rocks what appears to be a bishop’s mitre while playing handsies with the lovely Dana Bash (of CNN fame) as the Player Queen. He also appears to be attempting to interest her in his legs, but that’s another story.

L to R: Council-member-at-Large Robert C. White, Jr., Senator Roger Wicker, The Honorable Jim Moran, Senator Chris Coons, and Representative Gerry Connolly prepare for Will on the Hill. Photo by Kevin Allen.
L to R: Council-member-at-Large Robert C. White, Jr., Senator Roger Wicker, The Honorable Jim Moran, Senator Chris Coons, and Representative Gerry Connolly prepare for Will on the Hill. Photo by Kevin Allen.

Romeo (Rep. Brendan Boyle) and Juliet (Melissa Fitzgerald, The West Wing, Advancing Justice National Association of Drug Court Professionals) have become a social media sensation after, by their own account, turning their terrible life choices into the world’s greatest love story. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) raised a cheer as Beatrice, who has embraced the left and become a fan of Rachel Maddow. Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly plays Benedick, who has espoused Tucker Carlson bowties and looks forward to appearing on Hannity. Their courtship, predictably, is as rocky as ever.

What would a Congressional play be without an investigation? Our capable Investigators are The Hill’s Bob Cusack (Investigator One) and Rep. Darrell Issa (Investigator Two). They display Joe Friday-like dedication in their zeal to find out the truth. Later we hear from Investigator Three (Kelly Jane Torrance, the Weekly Standard) who, while late to the party, has her own contribution to make to the festivities.

Inside jokes abounded and most of them worked. Some I didn’t get, not being a policy wonk (Project Veritas, I’m looking at you!). Memorable lines included “Sign your NDAs on the way out!”, “Salaries are for the 1 percent” (do they need salaries?), “Madam’s Organ (I mean Adams Morgan)” and my personal favorite, “The deep state chem trails that made the frogs gay.”

Someone with a great sense of humor, possibly the cast, raided the STC costume shop. Robes were de rigueur, and they came with a fetching variety of hats and accessories. There were times when I thought I was watching the Three Wise Men. Romeo for some inexplicable reason wore a Shriner’s hat. Beatrice wore what looked like a turban.

Quotes from Shakespeare’s finest were frequent, although Hamlet appeared to have the lion’s share. “Hell is empty and all the devils are here!” from The Tempest. “A plague on both your houses!” from Romeo and Juliet. “To thine own self be true” and “Oh that this too too solid flesh would melt” from Hamlet.

Other highlights included a catfight between Viola (Marla Allard) and Rosalind (Christina Sevilla) over who is the bigger dude; the moment we find out who the real candidate is (the clue is in the title) and some of the laugh lines: “I have no idea what I’m doing! I work for the DCCC!” “As much as Robert Mueller loves a subpoena!” “As depressed as Chelsy Davy was at the royal wedding!” and another favorite: “Since we made that moon landing nothing has been right!”

It was a fun, light-hearted evening for a good cause. Congratulations to all the participants for their bipartisanship, love of Shakespeare, and ability to laugh at themselves.

Additional Cast Members:
Prologue One: The Honorable Ryan Zinke
Prologue Two: The Honorable Jeff Miller
Intern One: Marla Allard
Intern Two: Councilmember-At-Large Robert C. White, Jr.
Truthbuster One: John Feehery
Truthbuster Two: David Bohigian
Truthbuster Three: Sen. Roger Wicker
Roman Soldier One: The Honorable Jeff Miller
Roman Soldier Two: The Honorable Jim Moran
Follower: Maggie Coons
Mustardseed: Rep. Suzanne Bonamici
Peaseblossom: The Honorable Jim Moran
Claudius: Grover Norquist
Epilogue One: Melissa Fitzgerald
Epilogue Two: Maggie Coons

STC Text Alive! Dancers: Cha’la Bryant, Kayla Earl, Re’Ana Green, Kahlil Guy, Rianna Johnson, Dazlyn Leonard, Yasmeen Mahdi, Daijah Outley, Nikira Pressley, Jerza Sellers, Mya Smith, Macaiah Thomas, Jasmine Tucker, Favor Umeobi, and Jalen Washington.

Will on the Hill, Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Annual Bipartisan Comedic Event played one night only on June 11, 2018, at Sidney Harman Hall – 610 F Street NW, Washington, DC. For tickets to future Shakespeare Theatre Company events, go online.

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Sophia Howes
Sophia Howes has been a reviewer for DCMTA since 2013 and a columnist since 2015. She is a playwright and director. An early draft of her play Southern Girl was performed at the Public Theater-NY, and two of her plays, Rosetta’s Eyes and Solace in Gondal, were produced at the Playwrights’ Horizons Studio Theatre. She studied with Curt Dempster at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, where her play Madonna was given a staged reading at the Octoberfest. Her one-acts Better Dresses and The Endless Sky, among others, were produced as part of Director Robert Moss’s Workshop-NY. She has directed The Tempest, at the Hazel Ruby McQuain Amphitheatre, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Monongalia Arts Center, both in Morgantown, WV. She studied English at Barnard, and received her BFA with honors in Drama from Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, where she received the Seidman Award for playwriting. Her play Adamov was produced at the Harold Clurman Theater on Theater Row-NY. She holds an MFA from Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, where received the Lucille Lortel Award for playwriting. She studied with, among others, Michael Feingold, Len Jenkin, Lynne Alvarez, and Tina Howe. Her father, Carleton Jones, long-time Real Estate Editor and features writer for the Baltimore Sun, inspired her to become a writer.

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