A total of eight Shakespeare plays, including Henry VI, Part One, plus a Wilde one and a Shaw, are on the American Shakespeare Center's calendar for the 2015–2016 artistic year at the company's Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia.
What British scholar Andrew Gurr has called “one of the most historically important theatres in the world,” the Blackfriars Playhouse is a replica of Shakespeare's own indoor theater. In this venue, the ASC, believing that Shakespeare's stagecraft is as important as his wordcraft, has developed its own modern performance style based on how Shakespeare’s company performed plays at the original Globe and Blackfriars Playhouses in Renaissance London. Along with using the staging conditions (the company slogan is "We do it with the lights on") of Shakespeare's time, the actors play contemporary music shows and directly interact with audience members during the play, and one season, the Actors' Renaissance Season, is devoted to original practice productions.
“Our patrons can see more Shakespeare and Early Modern plays right here in Virginia than anywhere else on the planet,” ASC Artistic Director Jim Warren wrote in a press release. “In the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre, we perform 52 weeks a year in true repertory using Shakespeare’s staging conditions that bring out the fun, excitement, and heartbreak in the greatest plays ever written.”
In addition to scheduling four separate repertory seasons, the company will again send out a troupe of actors on a tour to venues across the United States from September through the spring. That company, on what this year is being dubbed the Dangerous Dreams Tour sponsored by Shakespeareances.com, will perform Julius Caesar and The Life of King Henry the Fifth by William Shakespeare along with Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest before returning to become the Blackfriars resident company for the Spring Season and adding George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man to its repertory.
The 2015–2016 Artistic Year kicks off in June with a Summer/Fall Season repertory featuring William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and The Winter's Tale. What the company is titling "Shakespeare's Joan of Arc," i.e., Henry VI, Part One, joins the repertory in September.
Three holiday favorites return to the Blackfriars Playhouse for the Holiday Season in December: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris, and The Twelve Dates of Christmas by former ASC actor Ginna Hoben. Slated to play Scrooge in Carol is longtime ASC favorite Allison Glenzer, the first woman who will take up the old miser in the company's rich history of cross-gender casting.
The Actors' Renaissance Season opens in Jan. 2016 with William Shakespeare's The Tempest. Sequentially joining the repertory for the season that runs into April will be Women Beware Women by Thomas Middleton, Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare and Thomas Middleton, The Sea Voyage by John Fletcher and Phillip Massinger, and the Restoration comedy Love for Love by William Congreve. For the Actors' Renaissance Season, the company of actors, without directors or a design team and using cue scripts, mount the plays among themselves with less than 50 hours of rehearsal time per play, the manner in which scholars believe plays were mounted in Shakespeare's time.
Subscription package sales begin in March; single tickets go on sale on April 15. More information is available online at www.AmericanShakespeareCenter.com, from the Blackfriars Playhouse Box Office by phone at 1-877-MUCH-ADO (682-4236), or in person at 10 S. Market St. in downtown Staunton.
January 22, 2015