American Shakespeare Center National Tour Returns to Staunton for Spring Season at the Blackfriars Playhouse
The Hand of Time Tour returns to Staunton with three classic titles and adds a world premiere to the repertory.
After travelling across 20 states and offering more than 50 performances to some 17,000 audience members, the American Shakespeare Center’s national tour returns home to Staunton for a spring residency on the stage of the Blackfriars Playhouse where they will present the three touring productions in repertory with a fourth title, the second premiere of the company’s Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries playwriting competition.
“We love making Staunton the grand finale in our national tour,” said ASC’s Artistic Director Ethan McSweeny. “This is a company of 11 actors who have been working together for 10 months and have become an incredible ensemble. The Spring Season: Tour Homecoming is a chance for our audiences to welcome them home and see them now.”
DC Metro Theatre Critic Andrew Walker White said “the cast is one of the most finely-tuned comedy machines you’ll ever see.” And recommends “to fully appreciate Shakespeare’s comic genius, you must experience it as originally intended—as a free-for-all with all the lights up, and pretexts galore for verbal jousting that leaves everyone in stitches.”
This finely tuned machine will take those skills to the stage at night, and to the rehearsal room during the day, as the company prepares to open 16 Winters, or The Bear’s Tale, winner of the groundbreaking Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries (SNC) playwriting competition. 16 Winters, or The Bear’s Tale spins a world out of the 16-year gap at the heart of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, tracing the journeys of the exiled queen and her loyal attendant, the jealous king and his dead son, and the abandoned princess and her rebellious artistic cohort. Writer Mary Elizabeth Hamilton (Juilliard School, Iowa Arts Fellowship recipient, Ars Nova Playgroup) and Director Amanda McRaven (Lincoln Center Director’s Lab, LA Stage Alliance Ovation Award, Fulbright Award New Zealand) will work with the actors to develop the new work, beginning performances May 1. Audiences can learn more about the Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries competition, and the world premiere of 16 Winters, or The Bear’s Tale on May 3, when the playwright will join ASC Co-Founder Ralph Alan Cohen for a special lecture, or on May 9 during a special post-show talkback with actors, McRaven, and Hamilton.
One of Shakespeare’s last plays, The Winter’s Tale is celebrated by audiences and scholars as a complicated and beautiful meditation on jealousy, love, loss, and redemption. In an envious rage, the King banishes his wife and daughter, possibly to death. Sixteen years later, audiences land in musical Bohemia with the questions “What happened to the Queen and Princess? Will the King be forgiven?”
Andrew Walker White said, “The Winter’s Tale is an intense evening of entertainment, an actor’s showcase, brimming with menace and humor, and with much to teach us about the mysteries of the heart…If you want to see Shakespeare done right, and appreciate the true nature of the man’s genius for live theatre, ASC’s touring production of The Winter’s Tale is essential viewing.”
The Winter’s Tale is directed by Kevin Rich and opens Thursday, April 18 with a pay-what-you-will performance. ASC veterans Ronald Román-Meléndez (Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, Shag in Equivocation) and Ally Farzetta (Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew) play King Leontes and Queen Hermione.
With Sophocles’ Antigone, ASC presents its first ever Greek classic, traveling back in time to 441 B.C.. In the aftermath of her brothers’ bloody war, Antigone’s loyalties are left torn. Her brother Eteocles will be honored, but her brother Polyneices will be shamed and denied funeral rites. Antigone stands for morality in spite of punishment as one of the earliest heroines in drama. Directed by local artist Doreen Bechtol, Antigone exams divinity, obedience, and law – and how love overcomes them all. Antigone opens Friday, April 19 with a pay-what-you-will performance. ASC Tour veteran Constance Swain (Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, Emily in Our Town, Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, Tiny Tim/Belle in A Christmas Carol) takes on the title role with newcomer Madeline Calais (Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Classical Theatre Company Houston) as her sister Ismeme.
Shakespeare’s first play, the Roman farce The Comedy of Errors, features two long-separated twins, their two tricky servants (also twins), a jealous wife, and her lovelorn sister navigating the tricky waters of mistaken identity, all with a hefty dose of slapstick humor. Gregory-award-winning director Desdemona Chiang (Azeotrope founder, Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, Drama League) directs this beloved comedy, which critics hailed as “brilliantly conceived and executed” and a “rollicking evening of theatre.” The Comedy of Errors features ASC veterans Topher Embrey (Ms. Jennings in Sense and Sensibility, Coke in Equivocation, Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol) and Annabelle Rollison (Mrs. Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, Kate in The Taming of the Shrew) as twins Dromio and Dromio. The Comedy of Errors opens April 20 with a pay-what-you-will performance.
Audiences can see all four titles during the Tour Homecoming Weekend May 15- 17, when ASC will welcome board, camp, staff, and education alumni to the Blackfriars Playhouse for a weekend of activities.