Who knows what havoc Covid will be wreaking next summer
The Colorado Shakespeare Festival recently announced its 2022 season, and I couldn’t be more excited. The season will feature three works by The Bard himself: Two Gentleman of Verona, All’s Well That Ends Well and Coriolanus.
Artistic Director Timothy Orr and Managing Director Wendy Franz have also included two plays not written by the man from Stratford: The Alchemist, by Shakespeare contemporary Ben Jonson, and The Book of Will” by the most prolific American playwright working today — Lauren Gunderson. The play will be directed by CSF veteran Rodney Lizcano, or so the whisper goes.
More about Gunderson’s work in a moment.
But first, I need to interrupt this announcement to issue this plea: Get your tickets now!
I was lucky to be cast in the CSF acting company last summer but, sadly, so many of my friends were unable to attend. Covid restrictions on seating resulted in a waiting list numbering in the hundreds.
We have no idea where the virus will be next summer. So hedge your bets and stop the procrastinating. Grab your seats today.
Back to Lauren Gunderson and The Book of Will: Great historical plays begin with a single great idea. Once you get that idea, the rest is just scribbling (well, not really, but I couldn’t resist saying it). And Gunderson has a particular knack for great ideas.
Shakespeare’s plays might have been lost to history were it not for two of his fellow actors and business colleagues at the Globe Theater.
These two men — John Heminges and Henry Condell — pulled together all of their dead friend’s works into one published volume: The “First Folio,” published in 1623. It’s not an understatement to call their efforts the most important publishing venture in Western literary history.
Gunderson takes this historical event and imagines a story about the band getting back together after Shakespeare’s death to save his works.
What is wonderful about Orr’s selection is the tie-in to Ben Jonson’s Alchemist.
Johnson was a competitor of Shakespeare’s, and in Elizabethan history, competition was a rough-and-tumble game. It was not uncommon for playwrights to snipe at each other publicly, though Shakespeare’s barbs usually were indirect and embedded in thinly veiled references in his works.
Ben Jonson was critical of Shakespeare’s works, particularly Julius Caesar, which he famously labeled “ridiculous.”
But Jonson came clean after Shakespeare died.
”I loved the man and do honour his memory (this side of idolatry) as much as any,” he wrote in 1619, three years after Shakespeare’s death.
And, more importantly, Jonson penned the now famous poem on the Folio’s dedication page, urging readers to ignore the engraved image of Shakespeare and focus on his rival’s “wit.”
“Yet must I not give Nature all: Thy Art,
My gentle Shakespeare, must enjoy a part”
It’s fitting to see the CSF bring these friendly competitors back onto the Mary Rippon stage together.