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'Will on the Hill' 2011: The World's a Stage

Sidney Harman Hall, Chinatown, Washington, DC

May 2, 2011

The Shakespeare Theatre Company's 9th Annual Will on the Hill, was taking place on Monday, May 2. Over the past three years alone more than 40 Senators and Representatives have served as Honorary Co-Chairs or performed on stage at Sidney Harman Hall in this humorous benefit. Will on the Hill has truly become a cherished Washington tradition among politicos and theatre lovers alike! 

Proceeds from the event support STC's many education, artistic and community outreach programs including in-school workshops and online learning resources that inspire new and diverse audiences and deepen the connection to classical theatre in learners of all ages.

This year's installment featured a script by Peter Byrne, and was entitled The World's a Stage. It brought the audience to a city-wide Shakespeare festival in Washington, as members of the government, the media and interest groups throng the streets in full costume. Richard III and Puck came to wreak havoc, attempting to undermine the political process at every opportunity. Everyone must rely on their reluctant hero Hamlet to save the day.

Following the performance was a gourmet buffet and cocktail reception for the cast, senior staff from the Hill who participate as members of the Honorary Hill Advisory Committee, and the VIP guests and sponsors to mix and mingle.

Photo (c) Kevin Allen / STC
Steven Culp with Michael Kahn (second from right) and two cast members

(May 3, 2011,, by Peter Rosenstein)

'Will on the Hill' a delight

Congress takes a turn at Shakespeare and it's their time to sound erudite and scholarly, biting and nasty as can only happen in a Shakespearean play; or on Capitol Hill.

Michael Kahn, artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre, set the stage nine years ago for this annual fundraiser for the theater's education programs by asking members of Congress to let down their hair and spend an evening making fun of themselves and politics, in Shakespearean tongue, to raise funds for something other than a political campaign.

This year the evening was called "The World's a Stage" and the cast included the LGBT community's own Jared Polis (D-CO). Appearing on stage with Polis were 15 other members of Congress including the new Chair of the DNC Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Virginia Fox (R-NC), and Shelley Berkley (D-NV). Also in the cast were the Honourable (and yes in England it is spelled with a U) Ian Liddell-Grainger, Member of Parliament and Natwar Gandhi, the District's chief financial officer.

Kahn began the evening by presenting a special award to Jane Harman, former Congresswoman and currently president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Harman, whose husband Sidney recently died, accepted the award in his memory. The event took place in the Shakespeare Theatre's fabulous Harman Hall which was built with a donation from Sidney and Jane Harman. In listing Jane Harman's achievements Kahn talked of her support for LGBT rights, woman's rights and environmental causes. He drew one of the biggest unintentional laughs of the evening when he misread the next line and said she was also recognized for her work by the League of Conservative voters. Quickly realizing his mistake Kahn corrected himself and said it was the League of Conservation Voters and that not even Jane with her Congressional Record and abilities could perform that kind of magic.

We were then treated to a wonderful performance by students from the Westfield High School in Chantilly Virginia who are part of the Shakespeare Theatre's student Text Alive program.

Then it was time for the members of Congress to take the stage. They did so in bright costumes and hats that rivaled any seen in the royal wedding last Friday. To help them keep the pace crisp and the lines funny they had help from the talented Tim Daly, Co-President of the Creative Coalition, who currently stars as Dr. Pete Walker on ABC's hit show "Private Practice," and Euan Morton who among many other credits has appeared on Broadway in "Sondheim on Sondheim" and "Cyrano De Bergerac." The evening's show was written by Peter Byrne and directed by the talented Alan Paul.

After the performance audience members and cast mingled in the beautiful lobby for a buffet dinner and drinks. Cast members received kudos and seemed to enjoy themselves as much as the audience did.

The evening raised nearly $400,000 for the artistic, education and community outreach programs of the Shakespeare Theatre Company. I would suggest putting "Will on The Hill" on your calendar for next May if you want to enjoy a fun night in the theater, see members of Congress act silly intentionally, and help bring Shakespeare to the young people of greater Washington.

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