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Before the pandemic, I attended a new play reading hosted by the National New Play Network. The curtain speech included a NNPN brag that their database held over 30,000 new plays. A well known playwright leaned over to me and whispered, “That’s terrible.” They’re not wrong. On one hand, access to that many plays and playwrights is awesome. On the other hand, this could be viewed as a severe case of “Too much of a good thing.”

How would Shakespeare fare amidst this glut of playwrights and plays, both good and bad? The world is a much bigger place. Could he still tap into the collective conscience of the world? Nicole Neely continues to prove she has the skill, insight and stick-to-it-tiveness to become an influential voice in American theater. She’s tapped in the collective conscience with her musical Stede Bonnet: The Worst F#@&king Pirate in the World which T3 is proud to help develop. It’s in our mission to nurture playwrights, helping them rise above this pile of 30,000 plays. Studying the masters can help with this too. Most of us spend our lives chasing Shakespeare’s genius! – JS

 

FALSTAFF greets a newcomer in the land of the deceased.

FALSTAFF

I think myself a God. Lo, I am known

to be an ass by all who have known me.

And yet to you, I am some other gent;

A speck focused on the briefness of life

rather than the vile honor of dying.

Alas, I retired ev’ning last and awoke in a great sweat.

Having been giv’n no warning, my last

day was short of pleasures and full of- pray, sweat.

You know not of me? O! Thou art a fool.

Dost thou take offense?

What’s a fool but one who has not yet been

told of what they ought to speak?

Rather, a “fool” is independent in thought.

No matter. If thou art a fool, pray; be a fool.

I am not just any gentleman.

Ay, you look upon the Sir John Falstaff:

A knight of something, nay, everything!

My lives lived have been a-plenty and not one has looked

Quite like this.

 

When one imagines the splendor of a

life lived after, one sees not a fairy’d forest.

All at once dark, green and heav’ly wooded.

Drops of golden light fall and freeze in time.

Before me, a chest appears with yet another name.

Is it thine? Dost thou care to take a peek?

Not yet. The more respect to you, fine friend.

 

Sit with me, we could all use a strong drink.

Go on then, think up whate’er you’d most want.

Comprehending where you are is thirsty work.

I could go for a rich bottle of sack.

AHA! And there we are. My favorite trick.

To life!… Well, to death!

 

O, Halt! Do not peer in that little chest.

In this vessel lies a sight for only

those that might bear the weight of the sadness.

I thought myself to be strong-willed before,

But nay, I will not to touch it again.

Thou asks why?

You ask and so I shall speak as I am tasked to do.

This chest belongs to a child of eleven.

Bright-eyed, sharp, and were there a heaven

He would be the treasure of Jove themself.

His death was belabored, his breath fell short.

If I had only been there, I…

 

Forgive an old badger, I forget myself.

I thought that perhaps death would release me

from guilt, anguish and the wisdom of oldness,

from lost friends and fallen sons,

and the curse of the plagues which plagued every year of my life.

Nay, it should not have been a shock when I lost him.

Nor could I have saved him, or so I’ve been told.

No cure afoot, nor any sense of how disease may spread.

Perhaps witches? Nay, a kiss on the cheek,

a shared breath, a bite of food—so simple.

A child pays a debt we choose not to comprehend.

 

Thou know’st not of my son? Perhaps thou know’st me.

I am merely an actor, a father,

and an admirer of those who regard

life as a warm and well-partied journey.

Thou know’st of the hardship of plague.

The grief rests on you like the poison of

a frightened skunk lain waste in a fairy’d wood.

Thou art in good and relevant comp’ny.

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