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Shakespeare Goes to War


A comedy-drama about a high school English teacher who survives a World War II prison camp to become an inspiration to his students.



2015 San Francisco Production:

“This is the kind of writing that should inspire more people to consider making Theatre Rhinoceros (a/k/a "the longest running LGBT theatre anywhere") a beneficiary in their wills…

“Based on the merits of Fisher's latest work [Shakespeare Goes To War] (a psychologically complex and multi-layered drama with frequent flashbacks), I see no reason to exclude him from a long list of prolific LGBT playwrights that includes Edward Albee, Jon Robin Baitz, Terry Baum, Douglas Carter Beane, Eric Bentley, Adam Bock, Charles Busch, Stuart Bousel, Noel Coward, Harvey Fierstein, Lorraine Hansberry, Moises Kaufman, Larry Kramer, Lisa Kron, Tony Kushner, Arthur Laurents, Charles Ludlam, Taylor Mac, Terrence McNally, Joe Orton, Paul Rudnick, Paula Vogel, Lanford Wilson, Oscar Wilde, and Tennessee Williams.

“Those unfamiliar with Fisher's work may wonder what (in addition to his writing, acting, and directing) sets him apart from so many others. The answer is simple. As the artistic director of a woefully underfunded nonprofit LGBT theatre company, he has drawn more blood from every penny spent on production values than Scrooge and Fagin ever counted. Unlike aspiring playwrights who dream of writing plays for large casts clad in period costumes, Fisher combines a prodigious appetite for research with an economy of production that is nothing short of remarkable.

“In an era when teachers are being demonized as soulless leeches who don't deserve to be paid with taxpayer dollars, Shakespeare Goes To War does a splendid job of showing how the most unlikely person can turn into a life-changing mentor.

— George Heymont – Huffington Post

“John Fisher has to be the first words of this review because he is the playwright, director, actor, and head of Theatre Rhinoceros, and because he brings us a World Premiere performance of a rich play drawn from his own life. And he does all that humbly, comically, and brilliantly.

“Fisher not only writes and directs, but plays the teacher, the Dad, and the Nazi Commandant, making each one a memorable, distinct, and nuanced character. What more can we ask? Fisher succeeds in enlightening us about theater, Shakespeare, acting, Brecht, WWII, history, teaching, learning, coming out, racism, and gay repression.

“The dialogue is crisp, witty, and thought-provoking, giving us insights into theater, war, and heroism in the classroom and in political life.

“Don’t miss it!”
★★★★★ of 5 Stars

— Barry Horwitz –

“Powerful… Very clever… John Fisher has created a moving “thank you” to the mentors that inspired him to go into theater. The thankless job of being a teacher and inspiring youth. The Briggs years have passed and gay teachers have it a bit better, and any teachers inspiration to youth is exceptional…

“It is a touching tribute to Fisher’s gate to theatre - and I highly recommend this show. it is a great way to celebrate your Thanksgiving break…”

— Vince Media –

“Shakespeare Goes to War, a new work by John Fisher, now playing at the Thick House, is almost exactly what Bay Area theater needs: a homegrown production filled with promise and possibility.

“As Jack Fletcher and the young Harry Smith, Gabriel A. Ross is terrific—especially in the plays within the play, school and prison camp productions of Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, Othello—where he brings real zeal to the roles, especially the distaff ones. Kevin Copps also does terrific work playing a variety of roles, especially a brief turn as Ronald Reagan. (His upper-crust British officer accent needs a lot of work.)

“John Fisher directs as well, and he does some excellent work, bringing real kinetic energy to the action, which takes place up and down a series of stair steps that make up the set. But perhaps his most charming directorial choice is to have all music and sound effects created by cast members standing at the back of house.

“Worth your time!”

Patrick Thomas –

“Compelling, provocative, and of full flesh. Numerous issues of great import are revealed, but in a truly entertaining fashion, with nuance and balance rather than the didactic tone that many "meaningful" storylines take

“This thoughtful theatrical piece works on a number of levels. Not only does it raise numerous social issues, but no situation that is introduced is reduced to a facile analysis and conclusion. The playwright recognizes the complexity of who we are; the issues we face in life; and the frequent contradictions of our beliefs and actions. … It should be seen by many, and it will have most talking about it all the way home and more.”

— Victor Cordell –

“A montage of several, compelling stories; but at its heart, it is about a man’s enduring love and admiration for a teacher who gave him a life’s worth of inspiration in two separate semesters of his freshman and senior years.

“Captivating, entertaining, and rewarding.

“Gabriel A. Ross…is both hilarious and impressive in his performances.

“For anyone, who is most everyone, who has that one teacher or mentor whose image and voice still vividly play out periodically in your mind’s stage as an inspiration to be your best self, "Shakespeare Goes to War" is written for you and should be seen in this premiere of Theatre Rhinoceros.”

Eddie Reynolds –

"With the play frequently traveling between time and place, Fisher makes ingenious use of the Thick House theater space.

"Fisher can usually be counted on to write at least one new play each season for Theatre Rhino, of which he is executive director, and Shakespeare Goes to War is one of his strongest plays in years.

"From the intriguing symmetry of scenes past and present to the emotional richness of the main characters, he finds a comfortable mix of the comic and the serious. Scenes in the POW camp can indeed be funny, not because of the circumstances, but through human idiosyncrasies on both sides of the war. And there is, as one might expect, plenty of humor in the high school scenes, but there are also leaden clouds hovering."

Richard Dodds – Bay Area Reporter


“Fisher explores various worthy themes: mentor/mentee relationships, especially when the mentor is deeply flawed; the value of art and its relevance to real-world concerns; coming-of-age struggles; racism and homophobia.”

— Jean Schiffman – SF

Read the script.