The WorkShop Theater, located at 312 W. 36th St.in Manhattan is celebrating it’s 24th anniversary this month. It was founded in April of 1994 as The 42nd St. WorkShop. Founding members included Charles E. Gerber and Carol Bennett Gerber, who had staged a critically acclaimed production of Shakespeare’s RICHARD II at Ensemble Studio Theater the month before. The Workshop has gone through several changes, artistic directors, hundreds of actors, directors, and playwrights, but it’s dedication to creating good work in midtown Manhattan has been undaunted.
The company has become primarily focused on “building stories”, and the promotion of new works with several excellent and prominent playwrights producing vital and exciting plays. Still, there remains a place for the cultivation of playing Shakespeare. Initially, this was from director, Carol, whose untimely passing occurred in 2008, and Charles’ playing and subsequent teaching, and since 2004, the creation of a series of nights devoted to the bard, called THE WILL-A-THON, created and directed by Charles. The festival has received acclaim, here on the pages of New York Splash Magazine, NY Theater.com, Bloomberg Media, and attracted such luminary guest artists as Tony Award winning, RICHARD EASTON for three years in a row, and the estimable AUSTIN PENDLETON, who had the joy of playing Gloucester to Easton’s KING LEAR in 2015.
The Fest plays every April as close to Shakespeare’s birthday, April 23rd, as can be scheduled. This year, celebrating it’s 15th edition, with a cast of 13, it features some of New York’s finest, experienced bard-loving players, providing scenes, soliloquies, speeches, sonnets, and songs in two separate shows over 5 nights.
On Tuesday, April 17th, Thursday, April 19th, and Saturday, April t21st, WILL’S WAY will provide liberal helpings of CORIOLANUS, CYMBELINE, HENRY 1V, PART II, MEASURE FOR MEASURE, and an abundance of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.
On Wednesday, April 18th,and Friday, April 20th, the evening is “FOR THY SWEET LOVE REMEMBERED”: a night of Sonnets, Scenes, and Songs of Love, featuring original music to Will’s lyrics by renown composer, Ray Leslee, and Gerber’s tunes composed for Carol’s past productions. Scenes from AS YOU LIKE IT, will be featured chiefly on these two nights with the sonnets and songs, in the form of a formally dressed champagne party of a semi-circled gathering of talented bardophiles just getting up and entertaining each other in a ninety minute gala.
The selections for the three nights of WILL’S WAY offer materials “RIPPED FORM THE HEADLINES” as Law and Order would say: Fake News? There’s RUMOR at the start of HENRY IV, PART II. “ME TOO!”? There’s the incredibly timely scene of Act 2, 4 from MEASURE FOR MEASURE. Overweening Pride, such as we encounter too much from our capitol? CORIOLANUS!
And, in answer to Charlottesville’s “JEWS WILL NOT REPLACE US!”, there’s an overview of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE featuring all of Shylock’s scenes, displaying Shakespeare’s incomparable genius in displaying the deep complexity and reasons of human beings, especially aliens, for their behaviors, and the inexhaustible need for “the quality of mercy”.
For the cast list, shows times, reservations as well as limited seating of Free Admission, go to the workshoptheater website.