The mission of the American Shakespeare Center (ASC) is to recover the joys and accessibility of Shakespeare's theatre, language, and humanity by exploring the English Renaissance stage and its practices through performance and education.
When Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen and Jim Warren founded the ASC in 1988, their purpose was to revive the energy of early modern theatre using Shakespeare’s staging conditions, making his work understandable and accessible to audiences of every age and background. For the first 13 years they toured throughout the US, often to more rural or underserved areas where residents rarely, if ever, experience live theatre.
In 1998 ASC relocated to Staunton, VA and built a permanent home, the Blackfriars Playhouse, the world's only re-creation of Shakespeare's indoor theatre, while still actively touring. ASC can now point to tour performances and workshops in 500+ colleges, universities, and communities, in 47 states and 5 other countries, during its 26-year history.
While ASC programs have expanded well beyond touring and now encompass residencies, year-round resident performances at the Blackfriars to 60,000+ ticket buyers, college preparatory summer programs for high school youth, a biannual scholarly conference, and more, we remain committed to mission driven work, and an emphasis on audience involvement and understanding, so that the communal experience of Renaissance theatre remains accessible to a broad range of communities.