American Shakespeare Center
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|American Shakespeare Center|
Official Logo of the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA
1988 as Shenandoah Shakespeare Express 1999 renamed Shenandoah Shakespeare2005 renamed American Shakespeare Center
|Purpose/focus||Shakespeare, his contemporaries, and related plays|
|Location||The Blackfriars Playhouse
10 S. Market Street
Staunton, VA 24401
|Artistic director(s)||Jim Warren|
The American Shakespeare Center (ASC) is a regional theatre company located in Staunton, Virginia in the United States. The theatre company focuses on the plays of Shakespeare; his contemporaries Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, Christopher Marlowe, and more; and works related to Shakespeare in other ways, like James Goldman's The Lion in Winter and Bob Carlton's Return to the Forbidden Planet.
The American Shakespeare Center performs 16 different titles in five distinct seasons, 52 weeks a year at the Blackfriars Playhouse, as well as travelling the country through ASC on Tour and providing a year-round laboratory for students and scholars through education programming in Staunton and on the road.
- 1 Mission
- 2 History
- 3 Blackfriars Playhouse
- 4 Shakespeare's Staging Conditions
- 5 Current Season Productions
- 6 Educational Programming
- 7 Partnership with Mary Baldwin College
- 8 Notable people
- 9 Honors
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
The American Shakespeare Center recovers the joys and accessibility of Shakespeare's theatre, language, and humanity by exploring the English Renaissance stage and its practices through performance and education.
The American Shakespeare Center—through its performances, theatres, exhibitions, and educational programs—seeks to make Shakespeare, the joys of theatre and language, and the communal experience of the Renaissance stage accessible to all. By re-creating Renaissance conditions of performance, the ASC explores its repertory of plays for a better understanding of these great works and of the human theatrical enterprise past, present, and future.
- The American Shakespeare Center was founded as the Shenandoah Shakespeare Express in 1988 by Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen and Jim Warren. The first show performed by the newly fledged company was Richard III.
- In 1990, the company started performing multiple shows in rotating repertory with a season of Julius Caesar and A Midsummer Night's Dream. This tradition continues today, but the number of titles per year has grown from two to sixteen (as of 2013).
- Shenandoah Shakespeare Express grew quickly during its first five years, moving from a single touring show in Virginia in 1988 to a three-show tour in 1992 that included the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington and an overseas leg in London and Edinburgh. Three years later, the company tours the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, and Scotland as well as starting to build the Education arm of the company with a six-week NEH institute.
- In 1997, SSE introduces the Young Company Theatre Camp, a three-week intensive summer program for high school students.
- Shenandoah Shakespeare Express become Shenandoah Shakespeare in 1999 and moves to its new home in Staunton, VA.
- September 2001, the Blackfriars Playhouse - at that time, the world's only re-creation of Shakespeare's indoor theatre - opens in Staunton, VA and ASC Education hosts the first Blackfriars Conference.
- In 2005, Shenandoah Shakespeare changes its name to the American Shakespeare Center, reflecting its growing status as a center for performance and research. Also in 2005, the first Actors' Renaissance Season debuts. The Actors' Renaissance Season uses Shakespeare's rehearsal conditions (self-directed, self-designed, short rehearsal period) as well as his staging conditions to delve deeper into the plays. The Actors' Renaissance Season is also an opportunity to explore rarer titles of the early modern period.
- The Blackfriars Playhouse celebrates its 10th Anniversary in 2011.
- In 2012, the Blackfriars Playhouse appeared in BBC's documentary "Shakespeare Uncovered," which aired in the U.S. in early 2013.
- The American Shakespeare Center celebrates its 25th Anniversary starting in 2013.
In Staunton, the ASC has constructed the Blackfriars Playhouse, a re-creation of Shakespeare's original indoor theatre, the Blackfriars Theatre. As no reliable plans of that theatre are known, architect Tom McLaughlin based the design on plans for other 17th-century theatres, his own trips to England to view surviving halls of the period, Shakespeare's stage directions and other research and consultation. The chosen dimensions of 50 feet (15 m) by 70 feet (21 m) were derived from the research of theatre historian Irwin Smith.
Construction began on the playhouse in early 2000, as part of a three-building construction plan that would also include a re-creation of the 1614 Globe Theatre and a Center for Research and Education.
The playhouse was completed at a cost of $3.7 million, and opened in September 2001. Built inside a brick shell, it is a wood-pegged, post-and-beam structure, made of Virginia oak, with a hammerbeam roof. The seating capacity is 300. Raked benches in a pit and two levels of galleries place the audience close to the actors, and even seating on the stage is possible. Unlike the original Blackfriars, the theatre has no painted decorations except at the back of the stage, and no windows in the auditorium. Electrical lighting reflected off the ceiling is used to simulate daylight, and lights simulating candles are mounted on sconces, and on wrought-iron chandeliers.
Shakespeare's Staging Conditions
The American Shakespeare Center gives its audiences some of the same experiences that an Elizabethan playgoer would have enjoyed by following the basic principles of Renaissance theatrical production - including Universal Lighting (audience and actors share the same pool of light), Doubling (one actor playing multiple roles in a show), Cross-Gender Casting (men playing female characters and vice versa), and Minimal Sets.
Current Season Productions
For resident theatre companies "repertory is destiny" - a theatre company acquires its audience by the productions it presents. Most of The American Shakespeare Center's 's productions are from Shakespeare's canon. However each year, several productions are works by his contemporary playwrights or more modern plays that relate directly to the Shakespeare canon or work well using Shakespeare's Staging Conditions.
Blackfriars Playhouse Productions
- Julius Caesar
- The Country Wife by William Wycherley
- Henry VIII generally believed to be a collaboration between William Shakespeare and John Fletcher
- The Custom of the Country by John Fletcher and Philip Massinger
- The Two Noble Kinsmen generally believed to be a collaboration between William Shakespeare and John Fletcher
ASC Education offers workshops, performances, staged readings, lectures, a bienniel international conference, teacher training, archival materials for scholarly research, and summer programs for teens and adults.
Partnership with Mary Baldwin College
- Ralph Alan Cohen, ASC Co-Founder and Director of Mission, Shakespeare scholar
- Jim Warren, ASC Co-Founder and Artistic Director
- Amy Wratchford, Managing Director
Board of Trustees
- Curtis J. Smith, Chair - Hampden-Sydney, Virginia
- Mary McDermott, Vice Chair - Waynesboro, Virginia
- Dan Layman, Immediate Past Chair - Staunton, Virginia
- Carol Adelman - Arlington, Virginia
- Paul G. Beers - Roanoke, Virginia
- Jeffrey Brown - Orange, Virginia
- Ralph Alan Cohen, Co-Founder and Director of Mission - Bridgewater, Virginia
- Jaymie Scotto Cutaia - Middlebrook, Virginia
- Rory J. Cutaia - Middlebrook, Virginia
- Howard Dobin - Lexington, Virginia
- Pamela Fox - Staunton, Virginia
- Paul Gladd - McLean, Virginia
- Christopher C. Grisanti - New York, New York
- Don Harrell - New York, New York
- Kerry D. Kisa - Virginia Beach, Virginia
- Joseph S. Kraemer - McLean, Virginia
- Chris Little - McDowell, Virginia
- David Mowen - Staunton, Virginia
- Rachel Nicoll - Orange, Virginia
- Rickard F. Pfizenmayer - Stuarts Draft, Virginia
- A. Lawrence Rose - Penn Laird, Virginia
- Celia Rutt - Staunton, Virginia
- Gregory St. Ours - Harrisonburg, Virginia
- Steven Urkowitz - Portland, Maine
- Jim Warren, Co-Founder and Artistic Director - Staunton, Virginia
- Amy Wratchford, Managing Director - Charlottesville, Virginia
- Miles Anderson, an English actor
- David Bevington, Shakespeare scholar
- Ronald E. Carrier, fourth President and current Chancellor of James Madison University
- Gordon Davies, former Director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
- Dame Judi Dench, CH, DBE, FRSA, Academy Award-, Golden Globe-, Tony-, BAFTA-, and Laurence Olivier Award-winning English actress, and Honorary D.Litt. recipient
- Lesley Duff
- Michael Goldman
- Barbara Mowat, Director of research at Folger Shakespeare Library
- Phoef Sutton, Emmy-Award-winning American television writer and producer of feature films
- Gary Taylor, Professor of English at Florida State University
- Zoë Wanamaker, CBE, an American-born, English actress and Honorary President of Shakespeare's Globe in London.
- George Walton Williams
- Jerry Zaks, Tony Award-winning American Broadway theatre and television actor and director
On September 12, 2013 the Staunton Virginia City Council passed a resolution honoring the 25th Anniversary of the American Shakespeare Center, acknowledging its growth from a touring troupe performing Richard III fourteen times in rural Virginia into an international Shakespeare center that has:
- performed in 47 U.S. states and five other countries,
- built the world's only re-creation of Shakespeare's indoor theatre,
- become the hub of scholarship on early modern performance at the biennial Blackfriars Conference, 
- "What We Do".
- "On the Road with William Shakespeare". Staunton News Leader. December 14, 1988. Retrieved 3.4.13.
- Virchow, Tory Talbot (19 August 2012). "You are here: Home / Entertainment / Shedding Light on the American Shakespeare Center: A Few Highlights of a Remarkable Weekend Shedding Light on the American Shakespeare Center: A Few Highlights of a Remarkable Weekend". Shenandoah Press. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
- "History". American Shakespeare Theatre Web Site. American Shakespeare Theatre. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
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- Longley, Maria (September 17, 2011). "The stuff of dreams: A theatrical vision transforms a town". Staunton News Leader. Retrieved 3.5.13.
- "Shakespeare Uncovered". Retrieved 3.4.13.
- Blackfriars Playhouse, American Shakespeare Center, retrieved 2009-06-20
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- Klein, Michael (14 July 2002). "There's much ado about the Bard in Virginia". philly.com. Philadelphia Media Network. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
- Clayton, Sarah (14 October 2001). "Virginia: In the historic town of Staunton, the stage is set for a Shakespearean renaissance". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
- "Shakespeare's Staging Conditions".
- "2013 Actors' Renaissance Season". American Shakespeare Center. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
- "2012/2013 Tempt Me Further Tour". American Shakespeare Center. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
- "MBC Shakespeare Program".
- "It’s Shakespeare Week all over Staunton". Augusta Free Press. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
- "Staunton City Council Proclamation". Frequency.com. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
- Moore, Rowan (12 January 2014). "Sam Wanamaker Playhouse – review". The Observer. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
- American Shakespeare Center. "ASC - History." Accessed 2009-06-20.
- American Shakespeare Center, operators of Blackfriars Playhouse
- Dreaming Creek, photo gallery of the playhouse from the builder