Nancy Anderson Willard Suitcases
Tucker’s irreverent take on Shaw completes “Roman Trio”, Anderson leads cast of world premiere musical The Willard Suitcases

2014 Wall Street Journal director of the year Eric Tucker brings his irreverent embrace of Shaw’s whimsy to American Shakespeare Center (ASC) with a production of Caesar and Cleopatra sure to leave audiences breathless with laughter and enthralled by the ensemble’s imagination and versatility.

“You really haven’t lived a full theatrical life until you’ve witnessed Caesar, Cleopatra, and the entire company leap into the harbor of Alexandria and swim across the historic Blackfriars stage,” says artistic director Ethan McSweeny, “Eric has an incredible gift for matching Shaw’s iconoclastic and subversive spirit wit-for-wit – I could not be more thrilled to have his brilliant theatrical inventions guide our phenomenal company in completing the third leg of our Roman Trio.”

Cosntance Swain David Anthony Lewis Caesar and Cleo          Cosntance Swain David Anthony Lewis Caesar and Cleo

David Anthony Lewis and Constance Swain with the cast of Caesar and Cleopatra, directed by Eric Tucker.
Photo by Lindsey Walters.

Caesar and Cleopatra joins Julius Caesar, McSweeny’s production of Shakespeare’s cautionary tale about the unintended consequences of political assassination, and Antony and Cleopatra, directed by luminary veteran Sharon Ott, for an experience ASC bills as “3 great plays, by 2 great authors, telling 1 epic story.”  Seen alone or in combination, ASC audiences can experience the journey of Cleopatra and her rise from petulant princess to glamorous queen within the context of world-shaping political machinations of the Roman Empire, while simultaneously marveling at the range and skill of a troupe of 16 actors collectively playing more than 100 roles and nearly that many musical instruments.

“To our knowledge, this is the first time these three plays have ever been presented together in rotating repertory,” says ASC Director of Mission Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen, “so it would for once be an accurate deployment of the oft-used hyperbole that this is indeed a ‘once-a-lifetime theatrical event!’”

World Premiere of The Willard Suitcases

Music is about to play an even bigger role on the Blackfriars Stage this fall, when ASC adds to its Roman repertoire the world premiere of composer/lyricist Julianne Wick Davis’s musical The Willard Suitcases.

Inspired by Jon Crispin’s evocative photos of abandoned suitcases and their contents frozen in time in the attic of the recently shuttered Willard Psychiatric Center in upstate New York, Davis’s musical imagines the lives that packed these long-untouched bags:  some funny, some tragic, some strange, and all very, very human. Directed by McSweeny, the production will be performed in ASC’s signature shared-light style, with the ensemble accompanying themselves and each other and featuring the addition of Olivier, Drama Desk, and Helen Hayes award-nominated Broadway chanteuse Nancy Anderson.

Anderson (West End’s Kiss Me Kate, Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard, Wonderful Town, and Class Act) and Davis (2012 Jonathan Larsen Award, Trevor, and Southern Comfort at The Public Theater) will reunite for the first time since they collaborated on The Pen, Davis’ one-woman exploration of a character’s battle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which was named a New York Times Critic’s Pick for its “stop-you-in-your-tracks” score when it premiered in the 2016 Inner Voices series and earned Anderson a Drama Desk Award nomination (her third).

With the tagline, “We all have baggage – what’s yours?” The Willard Suitcases will start performances on September 25 and open October 4, playing until the entire four show repertory closes the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Nancy Anderson Poses for the willard suitcases.
Photo by Lauren rogers. header image also.
More to Come

Also this fall, ASC will launch its 32nd National Tour on a journey that takes them from Maine to Texas, and welcome Canadian television and film star Paul Gross (Slings and Arrows) to accept the Burbage Award for advancing the love of Shakespeare at their Annual Gala on September 21.

“As the leaves turn and the Shenandoah Valley puts on its glorious autumn coat, ASC reaches the culmination of our summer efforts,” says Managing Director Amy Wratchford, “Fall is a season not to be missed in Staunton and on the Blackfriars stage.”

Tickets to all 2019 performances are on sale now and can be purchased online at or by calling 1.877.MUCH ADO.