The Alden hosts performances of Our Town, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Romeo and Juliet

The American Shakespeare Center on Tour makes its annual trip to the Alden McLean Community Center this January, bringing the 2016/17 Hungry Hearts Tour performances of Our Town, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Romeo and Juliet.

The American Shakespeare Center brings a unique performance style to The Alden, blending Shakespeare’s stagecraft with modern sensibility. The company uses Shakespeare’s staging conditions including universal lighting, minimal sets, doubling, and music. In Shakespeare’s day, the company couldn’t turn the lights out on the audience; actors and audience shared the same light. The Hungry Hearts Tour leaves the lights on for a type of audience contact rarely seen in modern day theatre. Audience members share directly in the action onstage as they become citizens of Grover’s Corners in Our Town, Milan in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, or Verona in Romeo and Juliet.

“This is the way we were: in our growing up and in our marrying and in our living and in our dying.” A moving look at life in the small town of Grover’s Corners, Our Town examines what it means to grow up. Through three acts: “Daily Life,” “Love and Marriage,” and “Death and Dying,” Thornton Wilder studies the deeply personal yet remarkably universal lives of the Webb and Gibbs families. This poignant American tale explores friendship, love, and death, but importantly, what it truly means to live. While Wilder’s play is a classic slice of Americana, it is hardly a sentimentalized ideal. For Our Town director (and ASC artistic director) Jim Warren, the play “is about our lives – right here, right now. It asks us to look at our own lives. It reminds us that each day matters.” Our Town investigates the complex underpinnings of deceptively simple lives.

When long-distance love tangles the heartstrings of the play’s title characters, it takes two clever women, a pair of devoted servants, and a dog to make things right. Shakespeare tries out some of his most popular ideas for the first time in this early comedy. Jealous lovers, a cross-dressing heroine, and a daring escape into the forest make The Two Gentlemen of Verona simultaneously a familiar and completely refreshing trip. ASC Guest Director Jemma Alix Levy thinks the real love story here is that between two friends. “Valentine and Proteus are best friends; they love each other – more than they can or will love anyone else, ever. Because love is confusing, friendship is confusing, and life is confusing, when all these elements get tangled together, the comedy grows exponentially.” With its ravishing language and uproarious comedy, Romeo and Juliet celebrates love’s triumph and its trivialities. Verona’s walls embrace the volatility of youth as well as the wisdom and restraint that often escape young and old alike. Thumb-biting, dance, and swordplay share the stage with sonnets, bawdy wit, and soul-searching speeches in this profoundly human and always surprising treasure. Returning after directing last year’s Julius Caesar, ASC Guest Director and Fight Director Benjamin Curns finds in Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy a surprising message of hope. “The actions of our titular heroes, and their pursuit of love over hate, change the way their families think and act. By the end of the play, the love between Romeo and Juliet has created a new community.” Love can conquer all, but as this play reminds us, conquest can be a bloody business.