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CHICAGO PREMIERE

Shakespeare
in Love

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at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

based on the screenplay by Marc Norman + Tom Stoppard
adapted for the stage by Lee Hall
directed by Rachel Rockwell

The Story

Our story opens in 1590s London: Phillip Henslowe manages a popular theater named the Rose, while his professional rival Richard Burbage manages the Curtain. Caught between the two is a struggling young playwright who suffers from writer’s block and, at the moment, owes both men a play. Meet Will Shakespeare, poet for hire, hopeless romantic, and penniless player, who longs for a muse to inspire him as he struggles to deliver his new comedy, Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter. After a long day of abysmal auditions, in walks “Thomas Kent,” who delivers the performance Shakespeare has been waiting for. But wanting nothing more than to escape detection, the young man flees immediately, leaving Will to chase him across the River Thames—and to the great estate of a wealthy merchant. The household prepares for a grand ball that very night, and he dances with the young lady of the house, Lady Viola de Lesseps, the struggling playwright discovers his muse.

Will casts the man and woos the woman—not yet grasping the fact that his actor is his lady, who has donned a man’s attire so that she might, just once, speak Shakespeare’s words as an actor on the English stage, a profession from which women were strictly banned. When Will discovers Viola’s true identity as highborn lady and lowly player, the love affair that ensues dishes up just the inspiration he has been searching for.

But, like Juliet, Viola is already promised to another, the titled aristocrat Lord Wessex, who plans to resettle with his newly acquired bride across a vast ocean, amassing his fortune in the Virginia colony—where Viola would be forever separated from her two great loves, William Shakespeare and the theater. And as the star-crossed lovers wrestle with fate, Will’s comedy of the Pirate’s Daughter becomes the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, a play that will show us “the very truth and nature of love,” just as Viola promised it would.

 

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in Love

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