Shakespeare & Company Presents World Premiere of the Hilarious Romp: "Wordplay"

Posted July 29, 2009

Introducing Shakespeare To All Ages
August 13 – september 6

{Lenox, MA}— Shakespeare & Company’s FREE Outdoor Bankside Festival invites all ages to the tented Rose Footprint behind Founders’ Theatre for the world premiere of the ferociously funny guide to Shakespeare’s work and times, Wordplay: A New Play By William Shakespeare. Resident Music Director Bill Barclay directs. Although this is a FREE event, tickets must be reserved through the Box Office. For further information about other productions or to reserve tickets call the Box Office at (413) 637-3353 or visit the Company’s website at

Wordplay runs Tuesdays and Sundays at 12:30pm and Thursdays at 5:30pm, joining the Rose Footprint repertory alongside Toad of Toad Hall by A. A. Milne. It is a freshly imagined romp through Shakespeare’s work as seen through the personalities of Lord Chamberlain’s Men, The Bard’s theatre company. Wordplay is written by Performance Intern Program participants Tom O’Keefe and Nathan Wolfe Coleman, and is brought to life in vivid colors by the members of the ensemble.

This fast-paced farce follows in the tradition of Rose Footprint favorites Wild and Whirling Words and Shakespeare And The Language That Shaped A World, which intersperse scenes from Shakespeare’s work with historical information and bits of trivia. Wordplay is a new adventure, however, as it frames some of Shakespeare’s best-loved scenes with a hysterical connecting story—the antics of The Bard’s theatre company as it tries to mount a play called…Wordplay.

“It’s a farcical look at what it was like back then to put up these plays,” Barclay says. “It’s all sourced in factual evidence about Shakespeare’s fellow actors, and how unruly, off-the-cuff, spontaneous and collaborative the company actually was.”

The Lord Chamberlain’s Men are meant to put on a fundraising production called Wordplay, but instead their playwright has simply left them a basket full of roles. (In Shakespeare’s day, the actors received all their specific lines on single roles of paper, rather than complete texts of a play.) From leading actor Richard Burbage to legendary clown Will Kemp, the actors scramble to put a show together, all the while squabbling and allowing their “real” identities to seep into their performances. Meanwhile, a creditor shows up and threatens to repossess the stage, the sulking prima donna Burbage infuriates his biggest fan, and a man dressed as a woman plays Juliet to a woman dressed as a man playing Romeo. Will the Rose Theatre stay intact? Will the actors make it through the play? And will the mysterious benefactor Lord Kresge ever show up?.

Wordplay is a whirlwind of humor, filled with historically accurate color, and includes scenes from Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, Henry IV, Much Ado About Nothing, and The Comedy of Errors, all of which come to life in thoroughly original ways. And along the way, the wild adventure seems equally informed by Becket’s play Waiting For Godot and Christopher Guest’s film Waiting For Guffman.

“We started with no ideas except that we wanted it to be funny. The play essentially has written itself. The situation down at the Rose is perfect—it lends itself perfectly to Wordplay and the sort of rough-and-tumble creative environment that Shakespeare and his fellow actors worked in,” Barclay says.

Wordplay features the 10 talented young actors in the S&Co. actor training residency the Performance Intern Program. Many of these actors are already familiar to S&Co. patrons, as they comprise the cast not only of Measure For Measure (playing through September 5 in the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre) but of the three soon-to-be legendary Preludes before each evening performance at Founders’ Theatre. They are Nathan Wolfe Coleman, Emily Hagburg, Ross Hurwitz, Emily Karol, Poornima Kirby, Tom O’Keefe, Gabe Portuondo, Alison Novelli, Aaron Sharff, and Mike Thomas

Shakespeare & Company’s Performance Internship Program is a 15-week program for professional actors. Participants compose the cast of a Shakespeare production at the Bernstein Theatre, create and act in a Bankside Festival play such as Wordplay, and perform in a Prelude before most evening performances at Founders’, in addition to preparing understudy roles for mainstage productions and receiving union membership candidate points along the way.

Shakespeare & Company’s nationally acclaimed Training Program puts theatrical training at the core of its mission, producing actors with the ability to affect audiences around the world with Shakespeare’s evocative verse. It is comprised of an array of disciplines addressing every aspect of Shakespearean performance ranging from voice training, movement, folio workshops, clown workshops, and stage combat. The heart of the Training program is the celebrated Month Long Intensive, a unique hands-on training that integrates all these disciplines and is offered nowhere else in the world. Alumni number over 1,800 from over 20 countries. Past training participants include Karen Allen, Lauren Ambrose, Gillian Barge, Jennifer Grant, Karen Grassle, Joe Morton, Andie MacDowell, Bronson Pinchot, Oliver Platt, Anna Deavere Smith, Keanu Reeves, Alicia Silverstone, Diana Quick, Courtney Vance, Sigourney Weaver, and Raquel Welch.

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