What You Will

What You Will by Wendy Hammond
Inspired by the characters in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night
Originally commissioned by Davidson College 2014-16, in further development with Playworks

Callan Gies as Mel, Bridget Lavender as Vardah
The play is set backstage during the First World Interfaith Conference for Peace, sponsored by Deepak Chopra, with speakers including Marianne Williamson, Rick Warren, and the Dalai Lama. Six students who are variously Muslim, Jewish, Mormon, atheist, and agnostic are spending spring break as conference volunteers - and learning a little more than they expected.

MELANIE: Doesn't your scalp get sweaty under that scarf?
VARDAH: Doesn't your body smell bad under all that underwear?
MELANIE: Aren't you on the government watch list?
VARDAH: Don't you go door to door bothering people?
MELANIE: Everyone thinks Muslims are terrorists.
VARDAH: Everyone thinks Mormons are cartoons.
MELANIE: I shouldn't have said that.
VARDAH: I shouldn't have either.
MELANIE: Mormons are a joke to most people. TV shows, musicals. Like you just have to say "Mormon," you get laughs.

Bridget Lavender, Callan Gies, Matt Hunter, Deya Bowers, Colin Bye
VARDAH: Let's pretend it's the year 950 C.E. We live in the Iberian Peninsula, in Cordoba, when Muslim and Jewish scholars had friendships.
RAFAEL: There probably weren't any female scholars then. At least not openly.
VARDAH: Let's pretend there are and I'm one of them, and we meet at the library and discuss...what?
RAFAEL: We can't talk about Maimonides. He wasn't born yet.
VARDAH: But we can talk about Al-Farabi.
RAFAEL: Jews had to pay oppressive taxes simply for being Jews then.
VARDAH: We'll pretend Jews and Muslims pay equal taxes, and are equal in every way.
RAFAEL: We might as well just come back to the present. You're you, and I'm me, and we're right here.

Riley Sloan as Will, Callan Gies as Mel
TOM: I'll put it like this: If Vardah cared about me the way I cared about her? I mean I would hold onto that like it's the most precious thing on the earth. Because two people truly in love with each other at the same time? How often does that happen?
MEL: My parents are truly in love.
TOM: OK, they're lucky. You're lucky. But I'm guessing you don't know many like them. So compare that to religion. I mean, the last 10 days around here? I can't keep track of all the religions people belong to. And then there's all the different denominations and sects! And then, everyone has unique personal beliefs and what's worse? People keep changing what they believe! And they hold several conflicting beliefs at the same time! I wish I could gather all two thousand plus people here at this convention, hook up each of their brains to a screen that shows what they're thinking, and then yell the word "God!" Out of two thousand people, there would be at least fifteen thousand pictures of God on those screens. Religions are not rare. Love is.
MEL: My religion is extremely rare. Because it's true.
TOM: But believing that is pretty common.

What You Will has 6 characters (3 m/3 w) and happens on a unit set, the backstage area of the Denver Convention Center.

Click here for a feature on the background and making of "What You Will"

"I'm confident we'll be seeing this merry, vital, and relevant comedy again."
Tannenbaum, Creating Loafing
Read the full review

What You Will was originally commissioned by Davidson College Theatre, and was made possible with support from The Bacca Foundation Vilsiting Lecture and Artist Program. The Bacca Foundation Program supports visits from distinguished scholars, visiting faculty, writers, performing artists, and professors of practice. The visits engage Davidson College students in innovative, stimulating,and meaningful ways. Click here for more about the playwright/director collaboration.

Photography: Bill Giduz for Davidson College
Davidson Theatre Producer: Annie McDowell Wadman    
Production Stage Manager & Scenic Design: Chance Ruder
Costume Design: Bob Croghan  
Lighting Design & Technical Direction: Neil Reda
Production Associate: Quincy Vanbeuningen-Newkirk  
Production Consultant: Ann Marie Costa
Cast: Callan Gies, Bridget Lavender, Colin Bye, Riley Sloan, Deyanira Bowers, Matt Hunter