Theater Beat: Ken Ludwig at PA Shakespeare Festival

by John Timpane, Staff Writer

Realistic optimist. "Comedy means a lot to me," playwright Ken Ludwig said last week as a car took him to the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival in Center Valley. His mission: to lead the first rehearsal for his The Three Musketeers, which swashes and buckles July 12-Aug. 6. (There's usually a Ludwig near you. Stagecrafters Theater in Chestnut Hill is doing his Shakespeare in Hollywood through June 25, and the Walnut Street Theatre will stage Baskerville Jan. 2-Feb. 4.)

Ludwig calls comedy "a realistic sense of optimism, not Pollyanna-ish. It's more the sense that if we try to be kind to each other, we push the ball toward a better society."

Ludwig has had success across the land, especially in regional theater. "My work tends to be either original works or adaptations like Three Musketeers," he says, "and I'm equally proud of both." Musketeers at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival is directed by old friend and eminent fight director Rick Sordelay, who has always wanted to direct the show.

"We have a great comic tradition," Ludwig says, "from Shakespeare right through the 18th-century ones, She Stoops to Conquer, The Rivals - such great plays. They give us a deep sense of satisfaction and joy, of a kind tragedy can't deliver in the same way. I find it mystifying that people love the comedies but don't spend as much time studying them."

Ken Ludwig (center) with the cast of his play "The Three Musketeers."

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