Meet the Guest Director

The Book of Will guest director: Maeghan Bishop

Maeghan Bishop stands for the scene change. She hops on stage to help move set pieces and place props. When all is where it should be, she sits as though in the audience of our Sheffel Theatre. It’s tech week. The Book of Will opens this Friday. And Maeghan is the guest director. Her movements are not a nervous set of actions, but deliberate and purposeful and inspired. She’s been here before.

“When we first put the show on the schedule, I immediately thought – we have to get Maeghan Bishop,” said Shannon Reilly, TCT’s Artistic Director. “She had directed The Book of Will at Washburn Rural and took her students all the way to state and nationals. I knew she was the perfect person to direct this show.”

In November of 2021, The Book of Will was performed by students at Washburn Rural High School where Maeghan has been a teacher and theatre director for the past 17 years. Her students’ synergetic performances landed them a place in the Kansas Thespian Festival, in Wichita. Encore performances followed when they learned they had also received the honor of being one of only seven schools in the United States selected for the International Thespian Festival, a showcase of elite theatre programs. It was cemented as one of the “most significant experiences” of Maeghan’s life.

Maeghan’s passion was captured by her students in their performances of The Book of Will, but it all began when she read the script for the first time. The play, as chronicled and written by Laura Gunderson, is based on true events that struck a chord with her.

“I’ve often described The Book of Will as being a love letter to theatre,” she says. “This art form is universal, and one of humanity’s oldest ways of finding and expressing meaning; Shakespeare and his friends knew that.”

If not for two loyal friends, all of Shakespeare’s writings would have been lost. Henry Condell and John Heminges set out to preserve the legacy of Will after his passing by compiling a folio, the first complete – and accurate – collection of his works. Encompassing all of his favorite themes: histories, tragedies, and comedies, The Book of Will humanizes a man we only thought we knew. This story gives you a glimpse into the lives of 17th century Londoners, The Bard, one rival writer (who perhaps has a change of heart) and those who call him a friend.

“This is why I love seeing him through the eyes of his contemporaries in The Book of Will as simply a man, with all of his faults and loves and talent,” writes Maeghan. “If you read their preface to the First Folio, it’s clear that only a legacy of deep affection and respect could have motivated Will’s friends to take on this nearly-impossible project.”

With a stage of new cast members, and a few former students too, Maeghan has once again turned her passion to art. Though rooted in contemporary language and humor, together, they paint a picture that transports you to this transformative era of theatre and literature. Teaching by day while devoting her time as guest director five days a week for more than a month, Maeghan’s dedication to this story is reminiscent of Will’s friends and the strong women who supported their endeavor.

She writes, “Its themes of legacy, love, loss, resilience, and the significance of strong women reflect Shakespeare’s plays themselves and will continue to inspire me long after our production runs its course. I hope you find meaning and resonance in this story as well.”

At this theatre, there is no director’s chair. Maeghan stands in the aisles. She sits where you will. Come. See what she sees. Experience The Book of Will at TCT.