In addition to completing its five-year series of Shakespeare’s history plays, the American Shakespeare Center’s 2012-2-13 Artistic Year announced last week will include six premieres at the company’s Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Va.
All told, the company has scheduled 16 productions to be mounted over 52 weeks in five separate repertory seasons, offering the largest number of plays per year by Shakespeare and early modern playwrights of any theater in the world, said a company release.
The lineup features nine plays by William Shakespeare, most notably the remaining two entries, King John and Henry VIII, in ASC’s five-year, 10-play series “The Histories: The Rise and Fall of Kings.” Henry VIII Shakespeare wrote with John Fletcher, and ASC has also scheduled the two playwright’s other extant collaboration, The Two Noble Kinsmen, and a Fletcher-Philip Massinger collaboration, The Custom of the Country, is also on the schedule.
In addition to the classical works the company is also offering a modern classic in the vein of Shakespeare’s historical plays, James Goldman’s The Lion in Winter.
The Blackfriars Playhouse in the Shenendoah Valley town of Staunton is the world’s only re-creation of the indoor theater operated by Shakespeare’s Company in the early 17th century. Believing that Shakespeare’s stagecraft is as important as his wordcraft, ASC has developed its own modern performance style based on how Shakespeare’s company performed plays at the original Globe and Blackfriars Playhouses, including original stage conditions of universal lighting, no electrical or digital enhancements, audience members on stage. The company applies these conditions even when doing modern works like The Lion in Winter and its holiday plays, and takes the concept a big step further with its annual Actors' Renaissance Season, which replicates original production standards: actors with no director and given only their parts and cue lines mounting plays with a week’s worth of rehearsal time.
Joining The Lion in Winter for the summer season beginning June 19 are Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and The Two Gentlemen of Verona. In the fall season starting Sept. 4, the repertoire expands to include Shakespeare’s Cymbeline and King John. After a holiday season featuring the return of the company’s now-standard repertoire of A Christmas Carol, The Santaland Diaries, and The 12 Dates of Christmas, the Actors’ Renaissance Season kicks off Jan. 4 with Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Henry VIII, The Two Noble Kinsmen, The Custom of the Country, and William Wycherly’s The Country Wife. The ASC touring company launches out in September with Twelfth Night, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, taking up a short residence at the Blackfriars during the holiday season before resuming the tour and returning to the Blackfriars for the spring season beginning April 10.
“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 said in a company 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 humanity of some of the greatest plays in the English language.”
For the complete line up of the Blackfriars Playhouse and other theaters, check out The Bard on the Boards section of Shakespeareances.com.
January 17, 2012