Biography

I have dedicated my adult life to the theatre and especially to the works of William Shakespeare. As a boy in rural Wyoming I grew up with music, hunting, literature, 4-H, snowplows, and an all-around-town picture of my great-grandfather’s stagecoach pulled by six white horses. My grandparents had a movie theater, but I first saw a theatre production when I went to college – on a tuba scholarship! My interests in Shakespeare’s London, Theater, and Plays began while I was in undergraduate school at the University of Wyoming. I appeared in Macbeth and As You Like It for UW and as Hamlet for the First Person Coffee House, with The Poor Yoric Players.

I earned a degree in speech, acquiring a broad background in that discipline with forays into debate, classical rhetoric, the oral interpretation of literature, history, and theatre. That breadth of focus introduced me to skills I have used in a variety of intellectual and practical ways since.

In 1971 I had the good fortune to begin a connection with The Colorado Shakespeare Festival and The University of Colorado at Boulder. This happy association has continued to today. I earned a Master’s Degree at CU (Thesis: Firearms for the Theatre). The University acquired a three-year Title III grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to produce a theatre that toured to both city and rural schools with children’s plays and Shakespeare.

We created the Colorado Caravan – six actors with minimal set and props and great costumes, traveling in one van to schools and communities across the state. Each semester we toured to around 35,000 children and teens, many of whom were seeing a live theatre performance for the first time. We developed a unique drama-friendly teaching style, and children’s plays that presented unadorned tales in a straightforward manner. We rediscovered Imagination. This style of theatre is especially desirable to teachers also. We learned enough about children and theatre that the University established an M.A. degree program in Developmental Drama, and students who took that degree established theatres like the Colorado Caravan all over the world. The history, theory, teaching techniques and scripts from these theatres are available at the Theatre of Myth and Imagination site.

When this program closed, I used the experience I gained with CU’s Colorado Caravan to establish The Overland Stage Company. I acted, directed, and wrote (with Lola, my wife) some 35 scripts for children and adults. The OSC toured extensively throughout the Rocky Mountains. The Overland Stage Company is an ongoing theater project. I also continued as an actor, director, and fight choreographer for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival throughout this period; alternately working with CSF during the summer months, and taking OSC on tour for the rest of the year.

I experienced a brain stem stroke in 1983, which left me with some physical weakness on my right side. When I realized, however, this little ‘speed-bump’ only made the theater more interesting for me, I found new and worthy ways to pursue my vocation. One of those ways was an impersonation of William Shakespeare.

My experience with Shakespeare and in the classroom was of particular interest to St. Mary’s Academy in Denver, CO. I became a teacher there in 1995, teaching grades one through eight every day. Our association was a happy one for eleven years. I had an opportunity to further refine classroom work while teaching Speech, Debate, and Oral Interpretation as well as Drama.

During this time, I continued acting at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder and occasionally touring with the Overland Stage Company. The result of all this activity has been the development of a service to the community, which the University of Colorado recognized by awarding me its medal for outstanding accomplishment and service in the year 2000.

Throughout these years, I have developed a set of impersonations that reflect my varied interests in the 16th and 17th centuries, the history of the American West, and Sufi poetry. My experiences growing up on the Overland Stage Line, along with being a martial artist and a black powder arms enthusiast, have also contributed special knowledge to many of my impersonations, which aim to share the feel and the reality of the time in which each character is set.

In the world of Shakespearean theatre there is an informal social group called “The Canon Club”. To belong, one has to have experienced in some way (as an actor, a director, an audience member, etc.) all 37 plays of Shakespeare. Three years ago I have come within one play (Titus Andronicus) of having done them all. I have now embraced the goal of introducing all 37 in my impersonation of Will Shakespeare. I am only two plays short of realizing that objective. (Titus and King John). My current aim is to complete both clubs! My full acting resume and repertoire can be viewed on the Acting Page.

In 2011 grateful visitors to ‘Will on the Green’ in front of Hellems contributed to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London in my name. Now Will, as I style it, and I have signatures with other theatre notables on a brass retaining wall at that theatre. In the fall season of 2013 I was able to view it. My gratitube knows no bounds.

Hearing Shakespeare’s plays and experiencing the presentation of them helps me know what ideas and forces shape both our time in history and our place in it. The pressures, loves, and experiences of Elizabethan England are similar to our own, while also being in many ways different. Elizabeth and James made England into a police state, where one’s religion and politics could be dangerous. The constant visitation of serious diseases (plague, cholera, smallpox, etc.) kept life in England very insecure. These things and others made a person’s life choices tentative and circumspect. In the plays, but also in Shakespeare’s life, we understand something of human frailty and personal courage.

Understanding this edge of similarity and difference between that time and the present continues to be a fulfilling life-long experience.

– Chuck Wilcox


For more information on special offerings and how to arrange a performance for your event, please visit the Contact Page and get in touch with Chuck.

Chuck Wilcox

Performing as Shakespeare

Visiting the Globe Theater