For veteran actor Cathy Fuller, Shakespeare's Will at the Jungle Theater marks an important first. "I've known Bain [Boehlke, the Jungle's founder] for years. We've had a couple of near misses in the last couple of years. I always wanted to work with him and work there," she says.
Fuller, in fact, gets the stage to herself for the play, which examines the life of Anne Hathaway, the playwright's wife.
"The script came into my hands. I wanted to do it. I thought, 'Who would do it? I'll just take it to Bain and see if he would like it.' He wanted to do it," Fuller says.
Vern Thiessen's play finds Hathaway after the death of her husband. She reflects on her life and marriage with the Bard. "I really liked the writing and the language. He invented a life for a woman we know nothing about. He created this woman who was strong and independent. She was forward-thinking for an Elizabethan," Fuller says. "I like plays about strong women. It was very appealing to me."
Fuller embraced the challenge of bringing a character that no one really knows to life. "I did a lot of research. I read books about Shakespeare and the times," Fuller says. "I was able to piece together what life for Anne Hathaway would have been like. I got an idea of what Anne would have been doing to keep herself going in Stratford."
One advantage to a solo show is that Fuller gets Boehlke all to herself in rehearsals.
"He's smart, he's funny, and he's very perceptive. He sees things that I don't realize I am doing. He hears things that I don't know how I am saying it. There is a lot of good give and take," Fuller says.
While this is Fuller's first time at the Jungle, it isn't her first one-woman play or her first time recreating a historical person. Six years ago, she played Ann Landers at the History Theatre. "You want to make sure you give them a fair hearing," she says about playing someone drawn from history.
Acting has not just been a longtime part of Fuller's life, but it has been a bond between her and her husband, Nat, who has been a familiar face at the Guthrie Theater and other local theaters for decades.
"We've been very lucky. We are one of the few couples who live in this city and get to say that this is what we do for a living," Fuller says. "We've learned to function really well during unemployment and employment."
All of this has allowed Fuller to live her dream of a life on stage.
"I like being on stage. I was shy as a kid, and a lot of shy people are drawn into the theater. You don't have to be yourself. It is fun to be somebody else and invent a life," Fuller says.
IF YOU GO:
The Jungle Theater
2951 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
For tickets and more information, call 612.822.7063 or visit online.