‘Will on the Hill’
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Sidney Harman Hall
610 F St., N.W.
The last time Maulik Pancholy graced the stage at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Harman Hall, he wore a dress. Last summer, the out actor best known from TV’s “Weeds” and “30 Rock,” played the title role in company’s all-male production of “The Taming of the Shrew.” Now he’s returning presumably in pants as special guest of “Will on the Hill,” STC’s one-night-only annual fundraiser.
“When asked to participate, I immediately accepted,” says Pancholy who’s based in New York where he lives with his husband, chef/caterer Ryan Corvaia. “I have great respect for Michael Kahn (STC’s out artistic director) and want to do what I can to help support this beautiful, mostly Shakespeare-dedicated venue and its many programs.”
The popular bipartisan event brings together both political and theater heavyweights. It’s a reliably lively show infused with comedic references to contemporary politics. Penned by Peter Byrne with assistance from D.C.’s West Wing Writers and directed by STC Associate Artistic Director Alan Paul, this year’s playette titled “Met By Moonlight” is loosely based on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and features 20 Members of Congress, 31 notable Washingtonians and professional actors including Emily Swallow, Ian Kahn, Veanne Cox and Pancholy as mischievous Puck.
Set in hot, sticky D.C. summer, the story follows government bigshots’ futile attempt to escape the city for cooler environs. When circumstances prevent them from exiting the city, these mortals decamp to nearby woods where they meet Shakespearian fairies Oberon, Puck and the King of Fairyland. Summer madness ensues and lessons are learned all around.
Proceeds from this event support STC’s many education, artistic and community engagement programs, including in-school workshops and educational resources that inspire new and diverse audiences and deepen the connection to classical theater in learners of all ages.
Pancholy is no stranger to politics. Prior to his involvement with STC, he served on the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He was appointed during the Obama administration, but after President Trump took office, Pancholy and other appointees resigned citing his immigration policy and disturbing campaign rhetoric.
“While it lasted, the Commission brought me to Washington for meetings. I met a lot of people. It was interesting to learn how the White House and Washington politics work. I haven’t abandoned the causes I care about, mostly LGBT and Asian American nonprofits. It’s important. I know how it is to grow up being different.”
Born in Dayton,Ohio, he grew up in Ohio, Indiana, and Florida. He majored in theater at Northwestern University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1995. He then attended the Yale School of Drama, where he received his Master of Fine Arts in 2003. His career has been a combination of theater, TV and film work. As his star rose, the non-profits reached out to him. And he responded. “I like to do more than attend a dinner or write a check,” he says.
“Of course politics are especially personal these days,” Pancholy says. “’Will on the Hill’ brings people together in a fun non-pressured way and raises awareness about funding for the arts, a timely cause and important cause.”
There’s more D.C. in his future. Next season Pancholy is slated to star in the world premiere of playwright Ken Urban’s “The Remains” at Studio Theatre. Studio’s Artistic Director David Muse is directing.
“I’m looking forward to it a lot. Both David and Ken are friends,” he says. It’s a project that I’ve been involved with from the start and has become an ongoing collaboration.”