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4/24/2024       (Preview)   THE BOOK OF WILL      Pumphouse Players                                        



(Bias Alert:  I am part of the cast of this one so it would be a breach of integrity to actually review it.  That doesn’t mean I can’t dredge prior columns for “background template” material in an effort to help grow Pumphouse’s audience!)


In the year of our liege, King James I, that year being 1619, the actor known to London as Richard Burbage has shuffled off his mortal coil and has joined his muse, William Shakespeare, in that undiscovered country that waits patiently for us, one and all.  John Heminges and Henry Cordell, theatrical men "of a certain age" ponder the loss of the plays of Shakespeare, Burbage being the last who knew them word perfectly, prompt scripts of Shakespeare's REAL words (not those bowdlerized Quarto abominations enriching scoundrels and thieves up and down the Thames) being lost when the Globe burned to the ground just six short years ago.


In order to change the end of an era into the start of a legacy, Heminges and Cordell decide to publish a "compleat folio" of ALL the plays, a task as Quixotic as finding that last copy of Cardenio.  Thus begins an odyssey of passionate men (and women), men (and women) devoted to enshrining their friend in the annals of literary history, even if it means turning over every privy seat-side read-file to find scraps of dialog, even if it means going to headstrong rivals for support and investment, even if it means enlisting the aid of the most corrupt printer in the kingdom.

As in all stories drenched in the demands of predestine fate, all of us these many centuries later, know the outcome and have gleaned the benefits of that outcome since our student days struggling to make sense out of early modern English and Elizabethan (and Jacobean) cultural paradigms.  Benefits that take root in those dry classroom lessons will inevitably blossom when exposed to performance by dedicated and passionate actors and directors and technicians.


But still, knowing the outcome does not diminish the tale, the story of a quest with dire repercussions for lovers of language and story, but is ultimately meaningless on the grand stage of civilization and cosmic epochs.  Or is it meaningless?  Would a world without Shakespeare be as beautiful, as rife with metaphor and resonance, if not for these plays that multiplied the vocabulary of a burgeoning language, that brought to life figures from history and fiction that heretofore lived only as dry names and dates?  Even if the fiction and the history were inexorably intertwined, as they always are when created in a propaganda-friendly cauldron of politics and dynastic will, the names and dates are still given faces and lives and joys and sorrows and high comedy and higher tragedy.


No, this is not a world I would cherish.


So, to me, the quest is not "meaningless," but is of utmost importance.


That this story has been put to paper by Lauren Gunderson, perhaps my favorite living playwright, is merely polish on the diamond.  She has heretofore given full rein to Shakespearana many times, using modern settings to reexamine Bardic tropes and motifs. (Exit, Pursued by a BearThe TamingToil and Trouble.)  She has heretofore shown great skill in recreating "moments in history." (Emilie Silent SkyAda and the EngineThe RevolutionistsChristmas at Pemberly.)  (And kudos for creating this many roles for men -- and women -- "of a certain age.")


This play, given a most excellent mounting in 2018 by Theatrical Outfit with its wealth of talented actors and artisans and creatives, is now finding its way to the community theatres of our grateful republic, landing at last in Cartersville’s Pumphouse Players.  And they have seen fit to allow me to assay three roles in the attempt.


I will leave it to you to judge the effectiveness of the performances and the design and have attached here a list of the talented beings with whom it has been my extraordinary pleasure to meet and intermingle and bring this history to life  Led by Director Meghann Humphreys and Stage Manager Ashley Fowler, that has been a delightful journey, and it is our fondest wish that you find it delightful as well.  Tickets are available at Eventbrite (Link Below)  and the show runs for six performances only, this weekend and next.


It's your turn to judge me!


So, does this play have the same ecstatically memorable ending as Ms. Gunderson's other works (the tour through the Universe that ends Silent Sky, the computer montage that ends Ada and the Engine, the emotional sucker punch to the gut that ends I and You)?  Being a play about the legacy of Shakespeare, you can probably expect a coda filled with words and scenes and quotes, all musically blended by voices not necessarily expected.  I'm not saying that's what happens.  I'm saying that's what I expected.


The Scottish Play once tried to convince us of the following:


Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing. (**)


This American Play now puts the lie to that speech.  Shakespeare's plays are a series of stories told by a genius, full of music and passion, signifying everything.  And The Book of Will proves once and for all that his life was hardly a "walking shadow," but filled with friends and excitement and event, and the idea of him being "heard no more" is simply preposterous.


--  Brad Rudy  (   #TheBookOfWill  #PumphousePlayers)



**  Rest assured, after it produced that quote, my laptop left the house, turned around three times on the front porch, spat on the dog, then begged to be let back in.  I'm still considering my response.

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