‘Will on the Hill’ asks, ‘What’s the deal with Shakespeare?’

Members of Congress and A-list actors join Shakespeare Theatre Company in fun and frolic for a good cause.

The beloved tradition of Will on the Hill debuted for 2021 on June 7, online. In this year’s version, members of Congress hold a live STC-SPAN hearing to decide what’s so great about William Shakespeare. We know, of course. But it’s quite possible they don’t. Amazingly, these dauntless avatars of cultural literacy wind up by mistake in the middle of Shakespeare’s plays. And who can blame them? Some don’t ever want to come back. This is something we can all understand, so long as we’re not stuck in one of the tragedies, of course.

There is a striking bit of bipartisanship as Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-TX) pose the nonmusical question, Shakespeare: What’s the deal with that guy?

Will on the Hill 2021. Screenshot courtesy of Shakespeare Theatre Company.

There is a panel of Shakespeare mavens, Colleen Kennedy, PhD. (Shakespeare Expert), Dr. Drew Lichtenberg (Go-To for Hot Takes about Shakespeare), and Ashley Buster, M.Ed. (Knows a Great Deal about Shakespeare).

Drew Lichtenberg, Colleen Kennedy, and Ashley Buster in Will on the Hill 2021. DCMTA screenshot.

Wonderful as it is to watch members of Congress when they are not attempting to sneak guns into the chamber or running for their lives, it’s a treat to see them act. The spirit of fun and frolic is everywhere, and it’s all for a good cause. As our host Godwin notes in his introduction, the goal is to raise money for STC’s Shakespeare in the Schools, which shares live theater with over 20,000 students a year, through workshops and residencies.

Simon Godwin introducing Will on the Hill 2021. DCMTA screenshot.

We reveled in the comedy stylings of Grover Norquist (Americans for Tax Reform) and Rep. André Carson (D-IN); Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) as Bottom, in a red beret, and his actress daughter Margaret (Quince); as well as various Plantagenets (Plantagenays), whose signature line was “Guards, seize them!”

Will on the Hill 2021. Screenshot courtesy of Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Patrick Page (All the Devils Are Here, STC) as Shakespeare, dapper in a white ruff, gazed suspiciously at the camera. Judging by the complaints of his characters, he had a lot to be suspicious about. Othello (Faran Tahir, who played the role at STC) lamented the loss of his honeymoon, as did Juliet (Bianca Amato). Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) rightly condemned the lack of depth in his character, the Bear in The Winter’s Tale, which was essayed to great effect earlier this season by famed attorney Andrew Weissmann (STC Mock Trial).

Will on the Hill 2021. Screenshot courtesy of Shakespeare Theatre Company.

The performance featured DC favorites Felicia Curry (Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus; four-time Helen Hayes Award winner), STC Teaching Artist Yonatan Gebeyehu (Timon of AthensEverybody), STC Affiliated Artist Tom Story (Peter Pan and WendyThe School for Lies), Holly Twyford (Old Times; five-time Helen Hayes Award winner), and STC Affiliated Artist Gregory Wooddell (The Comedy of ErrorsThe School for Lies)

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), STC Affiliated Artist Tom Story, and STC Affiliated Artist Gregory Wooddell in Will on the Hill 2021. Screenshot courtesy of Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Wicker and Connolly proved to be another winning comic pair, and Tom Story and Gregory Wooddell shined, as always, in the respective roles of Joseph in The Taming of the Shrew, apparently the smallest part in Shakespeare, and Prospero from The Tempest.

This year’s engaging script—written by playwright, director, and actor Nat Cassidy (Any Day NowOld Familiar Faces)—was directed by STC’s Senior Director of Engagement and Education Samantha Wyer Bello. Video was designed and edited by Gordon Nimmo-Smith.

There was even a Shakespearean happy ending; over $300,000 was raised for Shakespeare in the Schools. As Puck says in his lilting epilogue to A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream.

Will on the Hill and Far Away will be available for viewing until Thursday, June 10, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. ET.

The Cast

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)
Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS)
Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND)
Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA)
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)
Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA)
Rep. André Carson (D-IN)
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA)
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)
Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI)
Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY)
Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR)
Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA)
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN)
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
Rep. Van Taylor (R-TX)
Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV)
Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-TX)
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT).

Marla Allard
Bianca Amato
Tẹmídayọ Amay
Ashley Buster
Margaret Coons
Felicia Curry
Zoë Sophia Garcia
Yonatan Gebeyehu
Kimberly Gilbert
Harry Hamlin
Chris Jennings
Colleen Kennedy
Drew Lichtenberg
Ian Liddell-Grainger
Grover Norquist
Patrick Page
Tristan André Parks
Dame Karen Pierce
Tony Roach
Tom Story
Faran Tahir
Tracie Thoms
Nury Turkel
Holly Twyford
Craig Wallace
Finn Wittrock
Gregory Wooddell
Jacob Yeh

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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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