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?
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).
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.
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!”
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).
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 Athens, Everybody), STC Affiliated Artist Tom Story (Peter Pan and Wendy, The School for Lies), Holly Twyford (Old Times; five-time Helen Hayes Award winner), and STC Affiliated Artist Gregory Wooddell (The Comedy of Errors, The School for Lies)
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 Now, Old 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.
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).
Zoë Sophia Garcia
Tristan André Parks
Dame Karen Pierce