What We Do
"...and we'll strive to please you every day..."
We believe in presenting the works of William Shakespeare and his contemporaries through
We use minimal lights, tech, and set to mimic the conditions these works were originally presented.
We directly address our audience,
engaging the crowd and perpetuating their existence in the world of the play.
We travel throughout New York's capital region and beyond, bringing these
plays to a wide array of communities.
WKP Founding Members, 2017:
WKP offers educational workshops and master classes in improvisation, clowning, stage combat, and original practices.
WHO IS WILL KEMPE?
Hint: he's kind of our bestie.
Willliam (“Will”) Kempe was a beloved clown, dancer and comic actor of the Elizabethan period. He was a powerfully built man, noted for physical comedy and athletic dancing, as well as a sharp verbal wit. No records have yet been found to document his date or place of birth, but there is speculation that he may have some relationship to a gentlemanly Catholic family from Kent. Records indicate that he joined Lord Leicester’s Men, a company of actors in service to that lord by 1585. Records indicate that Kempe accompanied Lord Leicester to the Low Countries and with two other English actors, he entertained the Danish monarch at Elsinore.
In 1592, Will Kempe became a member of Lord Strange’s Men, and after the death of Lord Strange, he joined the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, along with other “Strange” fellows William Shakespeare and Richard Burbage. (Since all Elizabethan theatre companies were “sharing” companies, Kempe and his fellows most likely bought in as sharers; they were not “hired” in a modern sense.) Kempe was also a sharer in the construction of the Globe Theatre, but he seems never to have acted there. Kempe served as the clown for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, and he was the author of jigges, funny—often bawdy—short musical plays performed after the main play. Scripts for Kempe’s jiggles are still extant in English and German. In Shakespeare’s plays, Kempe played Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, Peter in Romeo and Juliet, and it is most likely that he played Costard in Love’s Labors Lost, Bottom in Midsummer Night’s Dream, Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice, and Falstaff in three plays—Merry Wives of Windsor; Henry IV, Part 1; and Henry IV, Part 2.
Inexplicably, some time between 1598 and 1600, Kempe’s relationship with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and with the Globe Theater soured, and he parted ways with both organizations. Some scholars aver that Shakespearean antipathy to Kempe’s performance style is contained in Hamlet’s speech to the players:
"...and let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them. For there be of them that will themselves laugh to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too, though in the meantime some necessary question of the play be then to be considered.—That’s villainous and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it."
---(Hamlet, III.2, lines 36-42)
In February and March of 1600 Kempe danced a Morris Dance in 9 days from London to Norwich, a distance of 100-110 miles. He rested between bouts of dancing, partially to gin up bets against his ability to complete the task. He documented this feat with a diary—Kemps nine daies wonder Performed in a daunce from London to Norwich. Subsequently he seemed to have toured Europe, but by 1601 he was back in London, borrowing money from the theatrical impresario Philip Henslowe. The death of “Kempe, a man” was recorded in Southwark, the entertainment district south of the Thames, in 1603.
A HISTORY OF CLOWNING
"Elizabethan clowning is a tradition of liminality and transgression that is so aware and outspoken regarding systems of power and value in a diverse artistic expression that it transcends boundaries created by class, education, and language. From Tarlton to Armin, and of course, Will Kempe, Elizabethan clowns are agents of joy, truth, and balance among all members of society employing physical comedy, song, dance, and Shakespearean wit. Pied and piping, their tradition persists, even to this day, right in this very company in a world where man has gone completely mad, "...and the foole shall looke to the madman."
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WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING
The chemistry between players is obvious, and the storytelling is genius.
Will Kempe’s' dedication to their ideals is unprecendented.
E. ROCHELLE POTTER,
PLATFORM 9 3/4
Fantasy play and players! Thanks, I really enjoyed it.