Beginning with preview performances on August 15, Atlanta's Theatrical Outfit will present THE BOOK OF WILL by Lauren Gunderson, Winner of the 2018 Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award. Gunderson is currently the most produced playwright in regional theatres in America (not counting Shakespeare, of course) and an Atlanta native.
1619-1623. London and Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Will Shakespeare is dead, and his legacy depends on a circle of devoted writers, actors, and friends. When a fishy Hamlet plays fast and loose nearby, the cohorts scramble to keep the Bard’s true words from fading into obscurity. The solution? A definitive collection of his plays. But to print it, they must overcome a ruthless publisher, an inebriated poet, and their own ticking mortality. Atlanta native Lauren Gunderson unfurls her trademark humor and smarts in this love letter to theatre’s timeless superstar.
The new production has a heavy UGA imprint. Professor of theatre and film studies George Contini is playing the two roles in the production; Allison Kelly (A.B., Theatre, '16) is the production Assistant Stage Manager. The Associate Artistic Director and Casting Director of Theatrical Outfit is Clifton Guterman (A.B. Drama, '98), a UGA alumnus who has enjoyed a very successful career as an actor in theatre and film.
"It is such an honor and joy to be working on Lauren Gunderson's play The Book of Will," Contini said. "The story of the search for Shakespeare's texts and the printing of the first folio makes for compelling drama, but Gunderson also infuses the play with great wit and humor. In the end, it's both a historically accurate tale of the birth of the greatest works in the English language as well as a touching meditation on why we need stories and theatre in our lives."
Contini plays two prominent roles in the story: Richard Burbage, arguably the greatest Shakespearean actor of Shakespeare's time and William Jaggard, the opportunistic printer who was behind the production of the First Folio. "The roles are so very different, full of wonderful idiosyncrasies, and a thrilling challenge as an actor," he said.
THE BOOK OF WILL is a great show for UGA students and faculty to attend. Theatrical Outfit is graciously offering a special priced $15 industry ticket for UGA students, faculty and staff for the following performances: August. 22, 23, 29, 30 and Sept. 3, 5 and 6 at 7:30pm and Aug. 25 and Sept. 1 and 8 at 2:30. (Basically every Wed. and Thurs. evening and Sat. matinee after opening.) Tickets are usually $36-50. These industry seats may be reserved in advance, but only by calling the Box Office at 678.528.1500. Theatrical Outfit simply requests some form of school identification upon arrival to pick up tickets.
Image: BOOK OF WILL rehearsal shot. Photographer Casey Gardner. Actors: George Contini, Tom Key, William S. Murphey, and Doyle Reynolds.