Caesar and Cleopatra Constance Swain David Anthony Lewis
Caesar and Cleopatra opens August 9, kicks off Festival Weekend

The American Shakespeare Center (ASC) welcomes guests for a special destination weekend August 9-11 when George Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra joins Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra to complete the three-part Roman adventure at the Blackfriars Playhouse. 

Caesar and Cleopatra is directed by Eric Tucker, 2014 Wall Street Journal Director of the Year and artistic director of NYC’s Bedlam Theatre Company, known for his innovative and exciting stagings of Shaw. The cast features the Summer/Fall ensemble, led by veteran ASC company member David Anthony Lewis and recent ASC National Tour alum Constance Swain as the titular couple. 

The interconnected stories of ASC’s Roman Trio are performed in repertory with cast members reprising roles throughout the plays, including Geoffrey Kent as Mark Antony, David Anthony Lewis as Julius Caesar, Michael Manocchio as Octavius Caesar, and Ronald Roman-Melendez as the Soothsayer. 

“As far as ASC is aware, no other theatre has ever attempted to present these three plays in rotating rep performed by a single company of actors,” says Artistic Director Ethan McSweeny, “For audiences this is not only a once-in-a-lifetime theatre experience, but also an incredible showcase of the depth, range, and versatility that make ASC unique.”   

ASC’s recently appointed  artistic director and Helen Hayes award-winner Ethan McSweeny helms Julius Caesar. In his first outing on the Blackfriars stage, McSweeny surrounds the audience with action and places them in the role of “crowd,” witnesses to the dark events of the play.  Shakespeare veterans John Harrell and Brandon Carter star as Brutus and Cassius, respectively. Head of VCU’s Theatre Department and former Artistic Director of both the Berkeley and Seattle Repertory Theatres, Sharon Ott directs Antony and Cleopatra, with Geoffrey Kent and Zoe Speas in those title roles, offering  a more intimate look at two leaders  whose private struggles cause great waves in the public sphere. Rounding out these two stories, Caesar and Cleopatra balances Shaw’s wit and humor with Shakespeare’s tragedies. 

Constance Swain for Caesar and Cleopatra

This Festival Weekend is just the beginning for these three productions in repertory as the Roman Trio will play through November. Visitors to the Blackfriars can experience all three shows in one weekend throughout the summer and fall, but this Festival Weekend is made special by a number of bonus events. 

For those wishing to add to their experience, audiences can join Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen, one of the world’s leading Shakespearean scholars and ASC Director of Mission, in conversation with Eric Tucker on Friday August 9 at 5pm. The pair will discuss the history of Caesar and Cleopatra as a part of Cohen’s “Dr. Ralph Presents…lecture series. Just after the presentation will be the opening performance of Caesar and Cleopatra, making this an exciting package deal.

The Blackfriars Playhouse will be filled with performances all weekend. ASC’s National Tour Troupe has been entertaining audiences with Midsummer 90 throughout the summer. A special sensory-friendly performance, for ages 3 and up, will take place on August 10 at 10:30am. With Midsummer 90, ASC takes audiences on a journey to a swamp-y forest full of masked hobgoblins, mischievous nymphs, and imps who sing the blues. It features the same forbidden love, fantasy, and foolishness of Shakespeare’s original, but in a neat hour-and-a-half package. The sensory-friendly performance will include adaptations for those who may need to take the show at a different pace.  

To round out the weekend, visitors are invited to a special edition of ASC’s Sunday morning “Discovery Space” series on the Blackfriars Stage, where Artistic Director Ethan McSweeny will announce ASC’s 2020 Artistic Programming. 

“Audiences attending the Summer Festival Season will experience not only the exciting work that the ASC now has on offer but will also get a clear glimpse of the Center’s future,” says Director of Mission Ralph Alan. “If you haven’t yet been to the Blackfriars Playhouse, now’s the time.  And if you haven’t been in a few years, now’s the time to come back.”

Visitors to Staunton are encouraged to spend the entire weekend with ASC in order to experience all there is to offer over the three day period. Thanks in no small part to ASC’s 20 year history in residence at the Blackfriars, Staunton was recently named one of the 10 Best Small Town Cultural Scenes in America by USA Today. Vogue Magazine considers the Shenandoah Valley a culinary hotspot.  Nestled into the Blue Ridge and host to many beautiful buildings and historic sights, Staunton’s classic main street offers shopping and dining as well as a lovely view. It has been named one of the 30 Most Beautiful Main Streets Across America. The Blackfriars Playhouse itself is listed as one of the 1000 Places To See Before You Die and Oprah’s favorite vacation destination in Virginia, making it a real must-see. ASC’s partnerships with local lodging and eateries means a weekend trip to Staunton is easy and fun. You won’t want to miss any of the unforgettable experiences at the Blackfriars Playhouse August 9-11. 

“Our destination weekends give a unique, holistic experience to visitors of all kinds. This Summer Festival Weekend is no different. In fact, this might be our most exciting one yet – with the premiere of Caesar and Cleopatra to complete our Roman Trio, and some exciting news about the future of ASC –  it will be a great weekend to visit Staunton,” says Managing Director Amy Wratchford.

Tickets to all 2019 performances are on sale now. You can purchase tickets online at or by calling 1.877.MUCH ADO. More information on the destination weekends is at Tickets are required for “Dr. Ralph Presents…” and “Discovery Space.” It is recommended that tickets be bought in advance.

Photos of David Anthony Lewis and Constance Swain by Lauren Rogers Parker.