The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0419  Thursday, 29 August 2013


From:        Peter Hyland <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 28, 2013 9:33:11 PM EDT

Subject:     American Shakespeare Center


I assume that many members of this group will (like me) be attending The Blackfriars Conference in Staunton, Virginia in October, but I wonder if all members of the group are fully aware of the remarkable work done by the associated acting group at the American Shakespeare Center. This small repertory company, as its name implies, stages Shakespeare’s plays, but it also has an unparalleled record of staging non -Shakespearean plays from the early modern period. Over the past decade or so the company has staged not only comparatively popular plays like The Alchemist, Doctor Faustus, The Duchess of Malfi,and The Roaring Girl, but also plays that few other professional companies in the world can afford (or have attempted) to stage, such as Dido, Queen of Carthage, The Blind Beggar of AlexandriaLook About You, and The Custom of the Country. By my count the company has mounted productions of almost thirty non-Shakespearean early modern plays since 2003. All of this is done in a beautiful replica of the Blackfriars Theatre that allows for genuine experimentation with “original practices” and a wonderfully intimate and relaxed experience for audiences.


Although tickets are not expensive, the actual work of staging does not come cheap. Staunton is an oddly isolated town, and the ASC needs all the help it can get, with promotion, and with groups coming to see the plays. If there is any possibility that you can take groups to the Blackfriars, you should surely do so. Check out the possibilities at:


It is increasingly true that postgraduate students are looking beyond Shakespeare for research topics, and the ASC provides astonishingly rich resources for facilitating this, including involvement with staging. If you don’t already know about it, look it up, and tell everyone you know. 


Peter Hyland


[Editor’s Note: I whole-heartedly second Peter’s remarks. I have followed the ASC and its predecessor the SSE since the 1990 performance of Julius Caesar at the SAA Meeting in Philadelphia. Although I have not participated in one of Ralph Cohen’s NEH Summer Seminars, those who have are prolific authors of essays and books on the intersection of original theatrical practices and Shakespearean performance and criticism. I will be attending the Blackfriars Conference. It is one of my all-time-favorite Shakespeare conferences. If you are a theater professional, Shakespeare scholar or teacher, or lover of Early Modern Theatre, you owe it to yourself to attend this conference in the autumnal Shenandoah Valley, surely one of nature’s most beautiful expressions of color is to be seen at this time of year. Papers are short and to the point. Presenters keep to the agreed upon period lest they hear the ominous thunder sheet, and those who go over their time are carried off stage by THE BEAR! Ya gotta love it! –Hardy] 


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