SPRING GREEN, Wis. - What the world knows about Anne Hatheway, the wife of William Shakespeare, isn't very much, but what history doesn't tell us, poets can speculate.
And when poets speculate, actors like American Players Theatre's Tracy Michelle Arnold can bring speculation to life. Arnold is the star -- and sole performer -- of "Shakespeare's Will," a highlight of the Spring Green company's summer season.
The entire play takes place in Hatheway's bedroom. The set consists of a large bed, a table, a chair and a piece of polyester fabric, dyed blue, that Arnold uses to set scenes, impersonate babies -- twins, no less -- and even create waves.
She introduces us to an unseen Shakespeare, three children, a grumpy father and a witch sister-in-law. Author Vern Thiessen leads us to believe Hatheway took many lovers while her husband lived in London, carrying out homosexual affairs (history provides no evidence for any of this), that she led a hard, but independent life.
Arnold does a wonderful job of portraying this character, who may or may not bear any resemblance to the real Anne Hatheway. The audience can and does learn to appreciate the Anne Hatheway who appears on the stage and becomes almost 21st century in her attitudes.
For those who attended a recent performance, however, "Shakespeare's Will" offered a special treat, becoming a two-woman presentation.
Following the play, APT's associate artistic director and director of this play, Brenda DeVita, joined Arnold on stage and took about 20 minutes of questions from the audience. The two are buddies as well as colleagues and the affectionate interplay between them as they described building a theatrical production while maintaining a friendship was both heartwarming and inspiring.
"Shakespeare's Will" is the first play DeVita has directed and she, along with Arnold, did a wonderful job.