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'The Book of Will' is a love letter to William Shakespeare

Some audiences may find the works of William Shakespeare intimidating, but what if they didn’t exist today?

A play titled “The Book of Will” performed by Phoenix Theatre Company showcases the true story to preserve his work.

It was written by Lauren Gunderson as a love letter to the prolific playwright and sonneteer — much of whose original work in print did not survive Shakespeare’s death.

The plot centers on two real-life characters, Henry Condell and John Heminges, who chaotically rush to collect  all the pieces of plays from actors’ memories and manuscripts known as prompt books to create a bound book of them following his death in 1616.

“It is a very funny play. It’s really clever and if the only line of Shakespeare you know is ‘to be or not to be, that is the question,’ you’ll still have a good time,” said Grant Goodman, who plays Condell. He compares the play to the Netflix miniseries “The Queen’s Gambit,” which has sparked renewed interest in chess.

“I think this play sort of does the same thing. I think if you don’t know a lot about Shakespeare it will send you out and maybe see a Shakespeare play and it will probably help your appreciation grow even more,” said Condell.  

Director of the play Melissa Rain Anderson said, "'The Book of Will' pays homage to Shakespeare, but it’s told through a contemporary voice. In the show, Condell and Heminges persevere to save these beautiful pieces of language and — more importantly — honor their friend’s work. The stakes are high and time is running out to compile the works in one place and preserve their place in history. Shakespeare is the grandfather of nearly everything we do today and this play is extraordinarily layered, magical and larger than life.”

Anderson said, “You don’t have to be a lover of Shakespeare to enjoy this show. The play, which runs through Sept. 18, is written for the people of today and makes Shakespeare accessible for the masses. The story exemplifies the importance of deep connections to family and the value of unwavering friendships.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the last run date of the play.

Tom Maxedon was the host of KJZZ’s Weekend Edition from 2017 to 2024.