Cincinnati Shakespeare Company announced today (Merry Christmas!) that it will add a performance to its season with the regional premiere of Vern Thiessen’s Shakespeare’s Will. Veteran Cincinnati actress and CSC Ensemble member Sherman Fracher will take on 10 performances of the one-woman show, Jan. 21-Feb. 5, 2012. (The production will run concurrently with Henry VIII: All is True.) CSC’s producing artistic director, Brian Isaac Phillips, is staging the piece.
Fracher portrays Shakespeare’s widow, Anne Hathaway, on the night before his funeral in 1616. The show recalls her life with the playwright and poet, both the good times and the bad. It’s a more human view of the Bard of Avon, portraying him as a husband and father. In his will, Shakespeare left her his “second-best bed,” an inscrutable inheritance the meaning of which has been debated for centuries. Thiessen’s script portrays the document as one that presents his widow mystery, judgment and heartache.
Thiessen is one of Canada’s most-produced playwrights. His plays have been seen across Canada, the United States, Asia, the United Kingdom, the Middle East and Europe. He has received numerous awards, including the Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Award for Outstanding New Play and the Carol Bolt Award. In 2003, he won the Governor General’s Literary Award, Canada’s highest honor for playwriting.
He is currently an Associate Artist with Epic Theatre Ensemble in New York City, where he writes, teaches and acts. Shakespeare’s Will was commissioned by the River City Shakespeare Festival in Edmonton, Alberta, and premiered at the Citadel Theatre in February 2005. It has been produced internationally, including the Stratford Festival of Canada. Toronto’s Globe and Mail describes the script as “perceptive and beautifully written,” and The Edmonton Sun called it “strongly poetic … meticulously crafted, exquisitely nuanced.”
Enacted by the award-winning Sherman Fracher, it should be an excellent beginning for local theater in 2012. By the way, Fracher recently performed the iconic role of Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie for Marin Theatre Company. The production (Nov. 25-Dec. 18, 2011) was staged by MTC’s artistic director, Jasson Minadakis, a co-founder and former artistic director of Cincinnati Shakespeare.