Itâ€™s a good thing I have tough skin (sort of) because I felt a twinge of a pinch (ouch!) a few times during Monday nightâ€™s 10th annual â€œWill on the Hillâ€ production by the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) at Sidney Harman Hall.Â Alas, if I canâ€™t laugh at myself, I will just cry.Â Thatâ€™s not a quote by any famous person, itâ€™s just what I say pretty much everyday.Â In this super serious city, you gotta embrace levity and for the cast members of this yearly event, humility and humor are golden.
This year, the less than one hour, scripts-in-hand, gorgeously costumed play was â€œSpeak the Speech, I Pray You!â€ by Peter Byrne, directed by Alan Paul.Â Before the hundreds of guests entered the hall Monday night, we mingled with red and white wine in hand, taking in the view of the then quiet Verizon Center (the Capitals were playing the Rangers away) from the floor to ceiling windows overlooking Abe Pollin Way.Â I spotted former Congressman Tom Davis talking with Dr. Natwar Gandhi CFO of DC and a few other notables and Shakespeare Theatre Board members. I did note that the majority of people whom I saw, I didnâ€™t recognize. This was strangely fantastic; a new crowd, a new generation, attending and supporting STC.
We were soon ushered into the hall and welcomed by Sabrina Carter, STCâ€™s Text Alive! Student Director, who introduced the cast members from Dr. Henry Wise Jr. High School.Â The students performed act 4, scene 1 from “Much Ado About Nothing”, beautifully acted in a design concept of â€œHogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardryâ€.Â There were a few standout future Sir Patrick Stewarts and Dame Judi Denchs.Â Text Alive! is one of the many education programs which is made possible by the support of â€œWill on the Hillâ€, foundations, corporations, individual and public agency donations.
Then the main show began with actor/director/producer and Emmy-award winning Richard Schiff taking the stage quickly followed by STC Affiliated Artist, Veanne Cox, whom I immediately recognized from television and a few STC shows as well.Â The two had great chemistry to start off “Speak” and it continued to develop before our eyes and to our delight as the show went on.Â In case you have not ever had the privilege to bear witness to a past â€œWill on the Hillâ€, part of its hilarity is that the cast is made up of our countryâ€™s Congressmen (and women), national and local journalists, this time, a real member of Parliament, and few other industry leaders, like Robin Bronk, CEO of The Creative Coalition.
Dressed in bejeweled head pieces, crowns, feathers, and robes, each one of these cast members sat on either side of the two main characters, Schiff and Cox, who played the parts of producer and director for Romeo and Julietâ€. Their tough (and it was quite tough, especially for the diva Cox) job was finding the perfect individuals for each role.Â The cast members ironically played variations of their real life professions. Dems impersonated Republicans; even Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) took on the hysterical part of the United States Postal Master General. There was the Surgeon General, there were lobbyists, head of a Super PAC, a crazy talk show host and his two talking heads, and yes, a scene with a â€œbloggerâ€ (gasp!) played by Bronk, and her “mom” and her “momâ€™s mom”.Â The good thing is, Bronk ended up winning the playâ€™s lead role of Juliet with Schiff as her Romeo.Â The two performed the last scene with gallant gusto.
We learn at the conclusion of the play that finally, finally, these “actors” really “got” Shakespeare when they just allowed themselves to, when they let go, when they spoke the speech presented to them.
Throughout the show, the cast enjoyed themselves as much as the audience, taking part in the laughter.Â It was a relaxed reward to letting down their guard, reading and executing their lines with grace under pressure and having fun. Woven throughout, no person nor party was safe from being made fun of, in the most teasing yet pin pricking way.Â Whether strict left, right, middle, or fan of anyone running (or currently in office) or anyone working for any type of agency or not, a media outlet, newspaper, nor even a famous media personality on TV NOR EVEN A BLOGGER (gasp!) … no one was left behind.
Yes, it was truly a night of no holds bard.
Then, â€œWill on the Hillâ€ co-Chairs Bernie McKay of Intuit, Inc. and Steve Ryan of McDermott Will & Emery LLP came up to thank everyone and give the score of the Caps v. Rangers, at the time, 1-1 Caps, and bring up the Media and Executive sponsors to the stage, and give praise and thanks to the Event and Hill Advisory Committees.
Post-performance, STC offered a buffet dinner and a chance to meet, mix and mingle with the prestigious cast.Â By the way, congratulations to Artistic Director Michael Kahn and the whole organization for deservedly winning the 2012 Regional Theatre Tony Award!
Until next time….
â€œGood night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.â€ Juliet in Romeo And Juliet Act 2, scene 2
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a leading source of information for the “who, what, when, and where” of Washington, DC’s elite social, professional, and philanthropic scene, which she founded in November of 2006. In 2012 she launched Pacific Punch, based in Los Angeles. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, Virginia and when she’s not out on the town, she’s reading or writing while sipping fine wine, or traveling the country and the world ISO adventures, beauty, fun, food, style, libations, music, and the good life. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.