May 3, 2011 | by Peter Rosenstein
‘Will on the Hill’ a delight

Congress takes a turn at Shakespeare and it’s their time to sound erudite and scholarly, biting and nasty as can only happen in a Shakespearean play; or on Capitol Hill.

Michael Kahn, artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre, set the stage nine years ago for this annual fundraiser for the theater’s education programs by asking members of Congress to let down their hair and spend an evening making fun of themselves and politics, in Shakespearean tongue, to raise funds for something other than a political campaign.

This year the evening was called “The World’s a Stage” and the cast included the LGBT community’s own Jared Polis (D-CO). Appearing on stage with Polis were 15 other members of Congress including the new Chair of the DNC Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Virginia Fox (R-NC), and Shelley Berkley (D-NV). Also in the cast were the Honourable (and yes in England it is spelled with a U) Ian Liddell-Grainger, Member of Parliament and Natwar Gandhi, the District’s chief financial officer.

Kahn began the evening by presenting a special award to Jane Harman, former Congresswoman and currently president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Harman, whose husband Sidney recently died, accepted the award in his memory. The event took place in the Shakespeare Theatre’s fabulous Harman Hall which was built with a donation from Sidney and Jane Harman. In listing Jane Harman’s achievements Kahn talked of her support for LGBT rights, woman’s rights and environmental causes. He drew one of the biggest unintentional laughs of the evening when he misread the next line and said she was also recognized for her work by the League of Conservative voters. Quickly realizing his mistake Kahn corrected himself and said it was the League of Conservation Voters and that not even Jane with her Congressional Record and abilities could perform that kind of magic.

We were then treated to a wonderful performance by students from the Westfield High School in Chantilly Virginia who are part of the Shakespeare Theatre’s student Text Alive program.

Then it was time for the members of Congress to take the stage. They did so in bright costumes and hats that rivaled any seen in the royal wedding last Friday. To help them keep the pace crisp and the lines funny they had help from the talented Tim Daly, Co-President of the Creative Coalition, who currently stars as Dr. Pete Walker on ABC’s hit show “Private Practice,” and Euan Morton who among many other credits has appeared on Broadway in “Sondheim on Sondheim” and “Cyrano De Bergerac.” The evening’s show was written by Peter Byrne and directed by the talented Alan Paul.

After the performance audience members and cast mingled in the beautiful lobby for a buffet dinner and drinks. Cast members received kudos and seemed to enjoy themselves as much as the audience did.

The evening raised nearly $400,000 for the artistic, education and community outreach programs of the Shakespeare Theatre Company. I would suggest putting “Will on The Hill” on your calendar for next May if you want to enjoy a fun night in the theater, see members of Congress act silly intentionally, and help bring Shakespeare to the young people of greater Washington.

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