William Shakespeare’s life was full of shadows, and one of the most tantalizing was cast by Anne Hathaway, the elusive and enigmatic wife who stayed at home in Stratford-upon-Avon while Will went off to London to write plays.
So, there is an inherent mystery at the heart of the Edmonton playwright Vern Thiessen’s Shakespeare’s Will. The question it poses is fundamental: Who was this woman?
The result is a genuine imaginative achievement for Thiessen who has managed to assemble a believable human being out of a historical quagmire that is short on facts and long on speculation. And his thoughtfully crafted one-woman script has found a splendid interpreter in Seana McKenna, one of Canada’s finest actresses.
We know that Anne Hathaway was 26 when 18-year-old Will married her in 1582, and that she was already pregnant. We know there were three children – Susanna and the twins, Hamnet and Judith, and that Hamnet later died. We know that Shakespeare spent most of his time in London until he retired back to Stratford and that he notoriously bequeathed his widow his “second-best bed.”
Yet out of such sparse information, Thiessen has fashioned an intriguing and beguiling play.
Producer & General Manager
Written by Vern Thiessen
Directed by Miles Potter
Set & Costume Designer Peter Hartwell
Lighting Designer Kevin Fraser
Composer Marc Desormeaux
Sound Designer Peter McBoyle
Stage Manager Marylu Moyer
★★★ 1/2 out of 4 Stars - "A perceptive director and an incredible actor meet a gifted writer"The Globe and Mail Kamal Al-Solaylee
"...a genuine imaginative achievement for Thiessen who has managed to assemble a believable human being out of a historical quagmire that is short on facts and long on speculation. And his thoughtfully crafted one-woman script has found a splendid interpreter in Seana McKenna, one of Canada's finest..."CanWest News Service, Jamie Portman The Vancouver Sun & The Ottawa Citizen
"In a controlled and charismatic performance under the direction of Miles Potter, McKenna brings Thiessen's anachronistic proto-feminist to full life and makes us believe in her..."The Globe and MailJ Kelly Nestruck
Shakespeare’s Will was commissioned by Free Will Players in 2002. It premiered in 2005 at the Citadel Theatre, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, produced by the Citadel in association with Free Will Players. Anne was performed by Jan Alexandra Smith.
A version of the play was developed for the Stratford Festival of Canada and opened in June 2007. The production was reproduced in 2011 and later toured throughout North American to first class regional theatres including the Globe Theatre (Regina, SK) and Merrimack Rep (near Boston, MA).