A large-spirited salute to the Bard, Michael Pennington’s one-man show is a perfect blend of biography, analysis and performance. Pennington’s career as one of Britain’s leading Shakespearean actors spans more than 40 years, including some 20,000-plus hours onstage performing Shakespeare for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and his own award-winning English Shakespeare Company.
Approximate Running Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes (includes intermission)
Sweet William is presented in The Carl and Marilynn Thoma Theater.
In his one-man show, Michael Pennington presents the story of Shakespeare's life and work, and his own life's work with Shakespeare. With only a chair and a red handkerchief on stage, Pennington goes in and out of characters, combining commentary and biography with performances of famous and lesser known monologues. Building on the facts that are known about Shakespeare's life, and drawing on the plays themselves, Pennington creates a portrait of the man that he likens to "a letter to my best friend."
"Shakespeare brings us together, with each other and ourselves, and the fact is that I've been around the block several times with him, from Buckingham Palace to Her Majesty's Prisons, from lecturing at the British Academy to dodging the rats falling from the rafters in Mumbai… I'm inclined to celebrate my prejudices and enthusiasms, my instincts about who he was and even a sense of fellowship with him in this new show... I'm convinced that it's best to approach these elusive figures sidelong; you won't be hearing a daisy chain of Greatest Hits, but some of his biography and mine, both giving rise to some fairly unfamiliar pieces as well as the justly famous ones."
– Michael Pennington
A Brief History of the Play and Its Sources
Michael Pennington was captivated by Shakespeare’s plays at the age of 11 when his parents took him to see a production of Macbeth. Sweet William weaves together over 50 years’ experience, over 20,000 hours by his estimate, studying and performing Shakespeare.
Michael Pennington on the Web
A comprehensive site maintained on Michael Pennington’s behalf contains a wealth of links to biographical information, feature articles, interviews, reviews, and writings by Pennington himself.
Michael Pennington on Shakespeare and Theater
Besides his plays and numerous books on acting, Michael Pennington writes occasional pieces for newspapers, where he reflects on his work and the current state of theater.
Michael Pennington and William Shakespeare
Pennington’s acting career spans appearances in repertory companies and on the West End, film, television and radio work, Greek drama and world premieres. His most acclaimed work has been on Shakespeare’s plays, which he has called the “vertebrae of his working life.”
Michael Pennington Actor-director Michael Pennington’s career has spanned more than 40 years. He has played leading roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and his own award-winning English Shakespeare Company, which he co-founded with Michael Bogdanov in 1986. Perhaps best known to younger audiences as Moff Jerjerrod, commander of the Death Star in Star Wars – Return of the Jedi, he has also published numerous books, including User’s Guides to Hamlet, Twelfth Night, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Pennington directed the Jeff Award wining Twelfth Night for Chicago Shakespeare Theater in 1996.
Sweet William Photo Gallery
One of the greatest classical actors on the English stage, Michael Pennington has had a varied career that includes almost all the major Shakespearean roles.
From the Artist
An accomplished writer, Michael Pennington has created not only Sweet William, his tribute to Shakespeare, but also Anton Chekhov, a one-man show about the life and work of the Russian writer. He has also written a number of books on plays and playwrights, including User’s Guides for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, and Hamlet. During the winter of 1995-96, Pennington spent a few weeks in Chicago directing Chicago Shakespeare’s production of Twelfth Night. He recounted his experiences in the conclusion of his book Twelfth Night: A User's Guide. Pennington’s reflections on the creation of Sweet William provide unique insights into Shakespeare by an artist who has spent his life studying and performing his works.