“We are such stuff as dreams are made on…,” The Tempest. The chance to present dreams on stage is what has driven the theater industry for centuries, long before film, television and even Netflix existed. No better indication of that can be found than at this year’s Will-A-Thon conceived and directed by Charles E. Gerber, produced by the Worksop Theater in New York City. For almost two decades Gerber and his merry group of players have been giving audiences a taste of William Shakespeare and no pandemic is going to stop them. This year on Sunday, April 25th, at 4pm the Will-A-Thon will be presented live via Zoom and then offered for four more days via YouTube courtesy of The Workshop Theater and in conjunction with Food Bank. NYC. (In fact, all proceeds from the event go towards Food Bank, NYC). It is entitled “A Series of Scenes with an Occasional Sonnet by WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE in Honor of his 457th Birthday.”
The Will-A-Thon has its roots way back in 2004. Charles and Carol Gerber were married and original members of the Workshop Theater (then called the 42nd Street WorkShop) and while they thrived on doing original work with the company, their real passion was Shakespeare. They created a one night event, which turned into three nights the next year and then five and as many as seven as time rolled on. The festival for years has featured three separate and distinct programs: WILL’S WAY- a night of scenes, speeches and soliloquies, “FOR THY SWEET LOVE REMEMB’RED” a night of Sonnets, Songs, and Scenes of Love! and “ONE MAN’S WILL or ” LET ME PLAY THE LION TOO!”, which is Gerber’s One-Man Shakespeare Presentation that was developed over the years and which has been performed at various campuses in the area.
This past year has been an incredibly tough challenge for theater companies throughout New York and throughout the world as the global pandemic has kept both actors and audiences home. While there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel, we are still a far cry from opening the doors and welcoming full houses. Inspired by the Playhouse 90 television series of the 1950s which showcased the talents of Rod Serling, Paddy Chayefsky and Reginald Rose, Gerber reimagined this year’s Will-A-Thon along those lines. Gerber says, “The vitality of Live theater I believe is well captured when something is broadcast live or in this case: ZOOMCAST LIVE!” In fact, this version of the show is introduced as “WILL’S PLAYHOUSE 90.”
The Will-A-Thon has always featured the very best of New York actors, mostly comprised of company members but with the occasional guest appearance. Charles recalls one very special contributor. – “Among our greatest honors was having for multiple years from 2012-2015, the bold participation of perhaps the greatest and most accomplished player with whom I’ve ever had the privilege to share a stage: the Tony Award winning and Theater Hall Of Fame Honoree: RICHARD EASTON. His Master Classes with us and successive festivals are some of the greatest theatrical experiences of my now nearly 50 year career. And indeed, his “Swan Song ” before retiring in 2015 was his allowing me to direct a complete reading of King Lear, with him in the title role. This was in our Jewel Box with more than 20 players, among them, Austin Pendleton as Gloucester who just wanted the chance to act with him! My direction to Richard was the pithiest of my career. It consisted of two words: ‘Sit here. to which he replied: ‘I expected no less!’ Richard passed away a year and half ago, and I carry with me his greatest legacy of instruction towards playing: ‘Always remain in the MOMENT.'”
The 2021 Will-A-Thon is conceived and directed by Charles E. Gerber, utilizing the present members of his WILL’S PLAYSHOP. Joseph Abrams, Arthur Aulisi, Ethan Cadoff, Dimitri Carter, Cherrye J. Davis, Allison Dayne, Courtney Fenwick, Letty Ferrer, Charles E. Gerber, Maggie Horan, Erik Kochenberger, Diánna Martin, Jeff Paul, Sarah Spring and Jonny Weber, with Special Appearances by Magical Fairies who wait on Titania! For more information, please contact The Workshop Theater