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The story of saving Shakespeare's works

Las Positas College theater students performing 'The Book of Will'
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The large cast starring in "The Book of Will" at Las Positas College in Livermore for the next two weekends.

It really could have been "to be or not to be" -- literally.

Bay Area playwright Lauren Gunderson explored the real-life story of two actors who strived to preserve key works by their late friend and mentor William Shakespeare in her historical dramedy "The Book of Will", which arrives on the stage in Livermore for the next two weekends as the fall production for the Las Positas College Theater Arts program.

"It isn't necessary to love the theater, or even Shakespeare, to connect to this work," said Titian Lish, LPC's theater and performing arts coordinator. "It is enough to have loved anything or anyone, ever. Gunderson uniquely connects audiences with historical and complex storylines in a charmingly accessible and humorous way."

The play dramatizes the true story of Henry Condell and John Heminges, two actors and contemporaries of Shakespeare who work to compile and publish "The First Folio" and ensure half of the legendary English playwright's works would live on after his death in the early 17th century. Without their efforts, it's very possible those plays would not have survived.

"But, of course, they'll have to borrow, beg and band together to get it done," LPC officials said in describing the plot. "Amidst the noise and color of Elizabethan London, 'The Book of Will' tells an unforgettable true story of love, loss and laughter. It sheds new light on a man you may think you know."

Zac Furber-Dobson stars as Henry Condell and Rikki Martinez as John Heminges in the LPC production that features 16 actors, including Lysander Sahagun as Richard Burbage, Ava Balbin as Elizabeth Condell and Jasmine Guerrero as Rebecca Heminges.

"It's just been such a humbling, collaborative experience, and I couldn't be more grateful to tell such a beautiful story with such incredibly talented people," Martinez said in a statement ahead of opening night.

"The Book of Will" will be onstage at the Barbara F. Mertes Center for the Arts black-box theater in Livermore this weekend and next weekend, with shows on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between today and Nov. 6.

Tickets range between $10-$20 and are available online via laspositascollege.edu or at the door as supplies last. Opening night this Friday (Oct. 28) features a special "pay what you can" performance designed to make the theater more accessible and affordable to all audiences.