PLAY REVIEW: NWSA High School's The Book of Will
"...and we sit here in this barn playing fictions for willing dreamers. We tell it over and over and over again. And I sit through it and it's false and it's hot air and I need it." - John Heminges (Lauren Gunderson)
Photo by Daniella Vega
When it comes to supporting the performing arts in Miami, New World School of the Arts (NWSA) has some must-see events throughout the year. NWSA has been noted as a top visual and performing arts high school and college in South Florida, with phenomenal exhibitions, concerts, and stagings. The weekend of October 6th through the 15th, the high school theatre division put on Lauren Gunderson's The Book of Will, kicking off the 2023-2024 performance season.
Under the direction of Silas Hoover, these talented young actors transported us to England, in 1619; where William Shakespeare died only three years ago, and his plays are already being bastardized. Now, it is up to best friends John Heminges (portrayed by Gabe Sklar) and Henry Condell (portrayed by Ándre Sanchez-Cardona), and their friends and family, to not only collect Shakespeare's works, but save his legacy before it is too late.
Photo by Daniella Vega
Like Shakespeare's comedies and tragedies, The Book of Will has witty humor for older audiences to enjoy and somber scenes that pull on your heartstrings (I, for one, cried of both laughter and heartache). This modern play is a beautiful reminder of not only the importance of preserving history, but "the perseverance of art and love through grief ", as said by actress Miranda Souki, who portrayed the role of Alice Heminges. "It was so special with such an amazing cast."
The acting in this production was truly outstanding. Every actor on stage, no matter how big or small their role was, delivered exceptional performances that brought each character to life. Their camaraderie, harmony, and comedic timing were keen; such aspects of the show allowed it to be incredibly captivating, immersive, and poignant. The amount of effort entered into the play by the students is indisputable.
The production's technical crew is also to be lauded: the props and set dressings used throughout were elegant and appropriate for the given timeline. The costumes were also very flattering on the cast, once again, with respect to the setting of the play. The set itself, although it served as various locations, was mainly a cozy, wooden pub (which was likely to be located outside or near the infamous Globe Theatre, where most of Shakespeare's works were performed) that gave a timeless feel.
I had the opportunity to speak with the show's leading gentlemen, and here's what they had to say about their experience as John and Henry in The Book of Will:
"Playing John was honestly a challenge. It was difficult for me being a 16-year-old to play a 50-year-old man who had so many experiences in his life. I sat down with the text and I went through line by line to find moments where I could honor his rich history. I’m incredibly thankful that I was able to play this role because it gave me the opportunity to use art to honor friends who are no longer with us. That’s ultimately what this show is about, using art to move through grief." - Gabe Sklar
"It was an immense privilege to tell such a significant story. I felt a responsibility. Like I had to do Henry Condell's life justice, similar to what he must have felt for Shakespeare's legacy; he knew and loved Shakespeare... that's a lot of weight on a young actor's shoulders. Being trusted with the role of someone like that, a role that transcends time, a role of a single person that, quite literally, changed the world, centuries ago, is scary. It was beautiful and terrifying and perfect and suffocating." - Ándre Sanchez-Cardona
It was such a pleasure to witness such a touching performance like this, and I cannot wait to see what the NWSA theatre division has in store for the rest of the season. If you are in the South Miami area and are looking to view live theatre, I would highly recommend attending any of the institution's upcoming performances. The NWSA production of The Book of Will was certainly an unforgettable event.
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