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The Book of Will
July 8th - August 27th
The Book of Will

The Book of Will, by Lauren Gunderson

Directed by Laura Gordon

A love letter to William Shakespeare, this moving and joyful comedy tells the story of the two actors, friends of Shakespeare’s, who worked to preserve his plays and legacy seven years after his death.  This beat-the-clock race to collect all of Shakespeare’s plays into one book delights audiences with a tale full of color characters, and provides a glimpse into a little known story about how his work survives and thrives to this day.  SCS’s production of The Book of Will is part of a year-long celebration honoring the 400th anniversary of the printing of the First Folio and stars out-going Artistic Director Mike Ryan, and in-coming Artistic Director Charles Pasternak.


Kathy Kenan & Alan Daniel

The Towell Family Fund


Executive Producers

Toby & Michael Alexander

Joan & David Zimmerman


Henry Condell, an actor in The King’s Men
Charles Pasternak*

John Heminges, manager of The King’s Men
Mike Ryan*

Alice Heminges John’s daughter
Susannah Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s daughter
Allie Pratt

Rebecca Heminges, John’s wife
Anne Hathaway Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s widow
Amy Kim Waschke*

Elizabeth Condell, Henry’s wife
Emilia Bassano Lanier, feminist and poet
Paige Lindsey White*

Richard Burbage, a famous actor
William Jaggard, a publisher of books
Rex Young*

Ben Jonson, Poet Laureate of England
Sir Edward Dering, book and theatre lover
David Kelly*

Ralph Crane, scrivener of The King’s Men
A Compositor
Jono Eiland

Ed Knight, stage manager of The King’s Men
Isaac Jaggard, a publisher of books and William’s son
Miles Blue

Boy Hamlet
Marcus, a printer’s apprentice
Mariana Garzon Toro

Bar patrons, print shop workers, actors at The Globe, and other citizens of London to be played by the ensemble.

Creative Team

Laura Gordon++

Scenic Designer
Michael Schweikardt+

Costume Designer
B. Modern +

Lighting Designer
Marcella Barbeau+

Sound Designer/Composer
Barry G. Funderburg+

Wigs Designer
Jessica Carter

Properties Master
Thomas Bigley

Stage Manager
Katie Ringwood Peavey*

Head of Dramaturgy
Sean Keilen

Ashley Herum

Textual Consultant
Michael Warren

Voice & Dialect Coach
David Morden

Assistant Stage Manager
Larcyn Burnett

Assistant Costume Designers
Gillian Bong, Wendy Lynn

Directing Intern
Zach Ring

Stage Management Intern
Midge Makowski

Dramaturgy Intern
MaryRose Jones

* Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.
+ + The Director is a member of The Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, a national theatrical labor union.
+ These Designers are represented by United Scenic Artists, Local 829 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

Director's Notes

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the printing of the First Folio of Shakespeare. As a self professed Shakespeare geek I have to admit that I never stopped to question how we came to have access to this remarkable body of work. I took for granted the fact that I can pull any Shakespeare play off the shelf whenever I want. But during Shakespeare’s career it wasn’t advisable to share copies of the complete text of a play. Rival theatre companies were apt to steal the material for their own use, so actors were customarily given only their individual lines to learn. The reality was that Shakespeare’s words were in danger of being lost, dying with the actors who had committed those words to memory. The Book of Will tells the true story of the group of actors and advocates who rescued Shakespeare’s writing after his death, literally preserving his legacy.

Lauren Gunderson has taken the facts surrounding the printing of the First Folio and written a play that shines a light on the against all odds race against time to preserve that legacy. A story full of  determination, obstacles, disappointments, and triumphs. A story of love, loss and laughter. A story that deserves to be celebrated. I find the efforts of John Heminges, Henry Condell, and their cohorts tremendously moving. Not only is The Book of Will a love letter to Shakespeare, but also to the generations of actors, theater makers and audiences who have been forever changed by time spent witnessing the incredible humanity revealed in his work.


Laura Gordon

Dramaturgy Notes

Before the Play Begins... Shakespeare has died three years before. Singled out in Shakespeare’s will to receive money with which to buy silver rings as a memento of their bond are three of his fellow acting company members: the company manager, John Heminges, and the actors Henry Condell and Richard Burbage. Famous for his portrayal of Shakespeare’s tragic characters, Burbage keeps Shakespeare’s legacy alive. [60 words]

Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will, a dramatization of the compilation and publication of the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, was commissioned by, and first performed at, The Denver Center for the Performing Arts in Denver, Colorado, in 2017. Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s production of the play coincides with the four-hundredth anniversary of the First Folio’s publication in 1623. As presented in Gunderson’s play, the determination to publish the First Folio, or “the Book of Will,” arises in the wake of the unexpected death of Richard Burbage. A celebrated actor for whom Shakespeare wrote many tragic roles—including King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth—Burbage was also a fellow member of the King’s Men acting company along with Shakespeare (1564-1616), who had since died, as well as with The Book of Will’s joint protagonists, John Heminges and Henry Condell. In the estimation of Heminges and Condell, Burbage had been the most sound and the most complete remaining embodiment of Shakespeare’s words.

Burbage’s death goads Heminges and Condell—and their wives and a daughter—to preserve what they characterize as Shakespeare’s plays in their true form, before they themselves die. The play dramatizes Heminges and Condell’ consequent involvement in day-to-day aspects of the seventeenth-century printing and publishing trades—not, on the surface, the obvious stuff of riveting drama. Yet their engagement with the material objects and the financers and practitioners of the physical labor that is inherent in the fulfillment of their project exemplifies a key theme of the play: that Shakespeare’s words live most resoundingly when they are embodied.

The very physical form of the Folio—large and expensive to produce—signaled that it contained serious literature, worthy of preservation. It is figured in the play as Burbage, in book form. By contrast, Gunderson portrays the Boy Hamlet in the play’s opening scene as personifying an edition of a Shakespearean text that has been transmitted imperfectly, and so is undeserving of perpetuation. If Burbage had embodied an authentic collection of Shakespeare’s plays, Ben Jonson, similarly, represents in the play the face of Shakespeare’s fame-to-come. A playwright and poet himself, Jonson had published a folio of his own works in 1616. Jonson, moreover, was famous during his own lifetime to a degree that Shakespeare surpassed only after the posthumous compilation and publication of his own First Folio. Aware that Jonson could harness his own fame to promote Shakespeare’s works, Heminges and Condell beg Jonson “to preface” the First Folio. It as though they were asking him to bestow some of his own famous “face’s,” or reputation’s, power to attract buyers to Shakespeare’s book. Throughout the play, a Crier walks the streets near the theatre, summoning people to see Shakespeare’s plays. Alternating with the Crier, Heminges’ wife Rebecca, too, walks near the theatre, selling fruit to playgoers, crying aloud her wares. By means of this alternation between Crier and fruit-seller, the playwright conflates Shakespeare’s embodied words with food: they are as necessary as food, she suggests, and as sustaining.

Ashley Herum

The Shakespeare Garden

Check out the list of flowers planted in our Shakespeare Garden. Each flower corresponds with texts from Shakespeare's plays. Special thanks to Lawrence G. Van Velzer & Peggy Gotthold with Foolscap Press.