In May, when director Frank Farrell began working with playwright Bob Shuman on staging Tongs and Bones Shakespeare–coming to Theater for the New City, as part of the Dream Up Festival (at the end of August and beginning of September [final dates to be announced])–their correspondence began with finding answers.  Here is the start (Farrell’s writing and questions are in bold); the entire interview will be published on Stage Voices Web site during the next several weeks.   

FRANK FARRELL:  I have a few questions I want to ask. They will help me figure out how to direct this production. 

When you wrote the five plays* did you write them with the intention of them all being performed together? 

* For the production at Theater for the New City, three plays are being staged, due to length.

BOB SHUMAN: They were written because I wanted to cover “other” or “hidden” stories within the texts.  I could start to see them in the Shakespeare plays, so I hoped to highlight them, as if I were finding pentimento in paintings.   

I wrote them for myself.  They are exercises, really, because I was interested in learning more about Early Modern English.  At one point, I had started to look up words I did not know, from As You Like It, to define and post on my Web site, Stage Voices.

What effect would you hope each play will give to an audience? What are you hoping they walk away with at the end of each play? At the end of all five plays?

That I found interesting or untold stories within the plays. They were my crossword puzzles.                   `        `       

Is it true that each of the five plays is a mixing of various texts including Shakespeare, other sources and your own dialogue? Am I reading some contemporary wordage in the text?
Yes, Shakespeare is the common element, but I, for example, am drawing on Virginia Woolf, Euripides, and Boccaccio, too—and there are more.

What do you think we can achieve with Tongs and Bones Shakespeare in the time we have? Tell us about the title. Are you interested in having dancers on stage to express what the actors are saying while they say it? 

The reason I call it Tongs and Bones Shakespeare is because I wanted rawness and fluidity.  Sure, it can dance. “Tongs and bones,” according to Oxford, are “makeshift musical instruments, used by people on the streets or in taverns.”  My plays were relying on imagination and literary improvisation; they’re based on the great work of the Bard—made disharmonic, noisy, visible, and boisterous!

Follow the progress of the staging of Tongs and Bones Shakespeare weekly on Stage Voices.


Crystal Field, Executive Artistic Director

155 First Avenue
(between 9th and 10th Streets)
New York, NY 10003


Stage Voices Web site ( will be following the course of the production with information and rehearsal updates.  To bring this ambitious project to life, we are seeking the generous support of our community.  To start, we are beginning a GoFundMe campaign: Please consider donating, as the cast, in keeping with those in Shakespeare’s plays, is rather large—there are, of course, costume and rehearsal space costs, as well; a long list of expenditures.  Your contributions, no matter the size, will play a vital role in ensuring the success of this production—and we give many thanks for your help.

Please use the following GoFundMe link for the crowdsourcing platform to donate.  

(c) 2024 by Frank Farrell and Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved. Art: Fuseli.


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