A Renaissance man | November 12, 2021 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - November 12, 2021

A Renaissance man

Local actor and former Weekly food writer brushes up his Shakespeare in 'TheBook of Will'

by Heather Zimmerman

Anthony Silk has a diverse résumé: the Philadelphia native has a master's

degree in aerospace engineering from Purdue, and is a retired Navy commander, having served

in the Persian Gulf after the first Gulf War. Silk teaches math at The Harker School, where he is

also the Upper School Mathematics Department Chair.

He has previously worked as a software developer and project manager, Southwest

Airlines ground agent, sales associate for Williams-Sonoma and social host for Carnival Cruise

Lines. And he wrote for this publication for a time, serving as the Palo Alto Weekly's food writer

around 2002-2003. Now, in a way, he can add "friend of one of the world's most famous

playwrights" to the list.

Silk is playing John Heminges, one of William Shakespeare's friends and fellow actors, in

Lauren Gunderson's comedy "The Book of Will"; presented by Foothill Theatre Arts. The play

runs through Nov. 21 in person at Foothill College's Lohman Theatre.

The role reflects another facet of Silk's wide-ranging interests: a lifelong love of theater. "I have

always been an actor for fun. I've done stuff since elementary school. I acted in junior high, in

high school and in college. And even when I was in the Navy, when I was overseas, I would find

productions that I could do," Silk said. "Always community theater — I never wanted to be professional. I just enjoy it. I enjoy the whole process of it."

His work on the stage and his profession complement each other. Silk said that in rehearsals,

the process of refining an effort and trying again when something doesn't work brings him useful

insight as a teacher into what students go through learning something new. And he said, the

experience also helps him better connect with students.

"The Book of Will" knows something about revising as well. The play tells of the creation of an

anthology of Shakespeare's work, now known as the First Folio, by the members of the King's

Men, the theater troupe with which Shakespeare worked. After the playwright's death, the actors

collect and publish his plays, which were at risk of being corrupted or lost.

"Just the idea that those plays almost were lost to time was eye-opening,"Silk said.

Though "The Book of Will" is inspired by real circumstances, Gunderson takes some artistic

license. But even the fictionalized characterization of Heminges is one of a man with a solid

grounding in reality.

"He is most concerned about the happiness of his wife and children, but when it comes to the

theater, he is focused on making sure that we have a good production. So he wants to make

sure that the theater runs, that people are employed, people are going to see the shows. He's

the manager and he takes that very seriously," Silk said.

There's a lot of give and take between Heminges and fellow troupe member Henry Condell

(Michael Rhone), who's pushing hardest to complete the folio.

"Henry's passionate about this and he's thinking as an actor and as just a theater person. So it's

an interesting contrast."

Silk said that he can relate to Heminges' position in his real-life role as a department chair who

has to mind the finances.

But he also clearly understands Condell's passion. "The Book of Will" not only celebrates the art

that a group of dedicated actors saved 400 years ago, but also highlights the joy of what

audiences are rediscovering now, as in-person performances are returning, he said.

"I think that theater is precious, especially now, today, where we lost live theater for 18 months.

Zoom theater was a nice substitute but not quite the same. And I hope people walk away

thinking not just about how much goes into theater, but how much we as an audience get out of

theater — how much it affects us, how much it can inspire us, or delight us or make us

rethink things," Silk said.

Foothill Theatre Arts presents "The Book of Will" through Nov. 21 in person at

12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills. Tickets are $15-$25. For more information, visit


Email Arts & Entertainment Editor Heather Zimmerman at [email protected]


Posted by Puffin
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 11, 2021 at 6:11 pm

Puffin is a registered user.

A terrific play with great direction and acting!