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All The Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented The Villain


Patrick Page. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.




Now extended through March 31, All The Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented The Villain continues to captivate and challenge audiences. Written and performed by Tony-nominated and Grammy-winning artist Patrick Page, the show explores the essence of the Villain archetype in William Shakespeare’s body of work.

With an extensive background in the works of Shakespeare, Page brings his storied yet still curious, excited, and inquisitive expertise to the stage. The play calls forth the spirits and demons we associate with Shakespearean villainy and as well as many historical documents informing Shakespeare’s life. The play sheds light on the pressures Shakespeare faced along with his inspirations, which informed his writing in all its stages.

Page casts our Western stereotype of the villain as the product of Shakespeare’s work, as the Bard’s career sits at the juncture where the antagonist undergoes a transformation. Where once the villainous character did evil because they represented sin, Shakespeare asks us to see someone who resorts to ‘evil’ as someone who wants more than their society was willing to give them.

There is no better demonstration of this than to refer to Shakespeare’s text, which Page embodies to bring us a host of familiar enemies. He invites us to contemplate each word the poet writes and the truth reflected in it. Though he focuses on those damned by our morality, his presence is so relaxed, comfortable, and intimate that it implores us to consider them as real, approachable, thoughtful creatures like ourselves. Page argues it was pivotal for Elizabethans to see that same human psychology at work. This acting feels strikingly different from what one would expect seeing a production of Hamlet or Merchant of Venice- Page gives each of his villains a chance to breathe, hope, and bond with the audience- as Shakespeare intended.

It is as enlightening for the longtime students of Shakespeare as for those unseasoned with it, as Page brings a perfect amount of context to each performance and the little-discussed history behind it. Yet it is not purely demonstrative; the words of Shakespeare are alive in Page, stirring him, addressing both him and the audience at our very core. In that way, it is nothing short of a masterclass.

The performance feels more like a conversation than a monologue or a series of monologues. It invites us into the mind of a genius to question the cultural ideas and structures we take for granted and to find our shared humanity in every moment. Page has stated, in the performance’s talkback, that this work is continually developing. Future performances may have more insight and offer a different or more expanded discussion on the spirit of villainy, and the spirits of Shakespeare’s work.

That we can imagine, reexamine the classical canon this way, and become closer to our shared past and present is something we very much need as people in this world. All The Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented The Villain satisfies this craving to know ourselves through the truth of the poet’s verse.




"All The Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented The Villain"

Written and performed by Patrick Page

Directed by Simon Godwin

February 8- March 31, 2024

The DR2 Theatre (103 East 15th Street, NYC)



 


Rita Frances Welch is… Wait, who’s asking? There are a few answers depending on the context. Rita is A) A New York playwright, actor, and director, B) The owner of 5 discrete copies of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, C) A force of nature, controlled by the tides and called to by the wind, disappearing and returning like the seasons. More material than their author, Rita’s plays have been produced by The Tank, Theatre X, Playwrights Performance, and Rogue Theatre Festival. They hold a B.F.A. in Acting from Shenandoah Conservatory, during which they studied under LAByrinth Theater’s Martha Wollner and Padraic Lillis. Rita’s writing functions as an experiment- a combination of characters in the petri dish of their world, their personal challenges and delusions in a vacuum, isolating for every variable but one: Human nature, which reveals itself every time. ritafranceswelch.com

                                  




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