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About the show

What if Shakespeare had a daughter who inherited his wit, creativity and imagination?

A retelling of the life of Judith Shakespeare, Upstart gives voice to a feminist born before her time. Surviving the loss of her twin brother, Hamnet, Judith is left to her grief, but with a firm resolve to shape her own future. Often neglected as a footnote in her father’s biography, playwright Mary Jane Schaefer gives voice to an unconventional woman, who refused to conform to societal expectations of her gender.

Directed by Alexandra Spencer-Jones, Upstart brings to stage the last surviving Shakespeare. 

A note from the playwright

This play about the life of Judith Shakespeare and those around her began as an exploration of Shakespeare's life. While trying to find out what Shakespeare might truly have been like, I discovered someone else in the family who also did not fit into a conventional mold. Though Shakespeare was very liberal with his fictional heroines, he expected his household to fall into a more conventional and even patriarchal mold.

But indications are that Judith, his younger daughter, would marry for no reason but a long-cherished love.

Upstart, the story of Judith Shakespeare, is the second play in Ms. Schaefer's trilogy about what Shakespeare might truly have been like.  

THE LIVES OF SHAKESPEARE is made up of Shakespeare Rising, the story of Will's emergence as a great London playwright, struggling to come to terms with the death of his only son, Judith's story, and the story of Shakespeare's love for the young Earl of Southampton, in the third play of the trilogy.  Shakespeare and the Heart's Desire covers not only Will's passion for a beautiful young aristocrat, but lays bare how his passion drew him and his theater company into an almost fatal political uprising.


All three plays were directed and developed by Mark S. Graham, at the Theatre Artists Workshop of New England. See Contact:


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