2023 was the American Shakespeare Center’s 35th Anniversary! We had a remarkable year and made many joyous memories with all who stepped foot inside the Blackfriars Playhouse. As part of our anniversary celebration, we invited our community to submit their favorite ASC memories from the past 35 years. This archive is the full collection of 61 memories that were submitted throughout the year, from patrons, donors, staff members, actors, directors, board members, campers, and more. Thank you to all who submitted a memory! We are endlessly grateful to have been a part of 35 years of happy memory making for our community and we can’t wait to continue making memories in the years to come.

As we close out our 35th year and look forward to the next 35, please enjoy this special and meaningful walk down memory lane.

THe MEMORY ARCHIVE

(In order of submission)

 

STEPHANIE CABACOY

DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND INTERIM DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT

Received: January 6, 2023

“My favorite yearly tradition is sitting in on a student matinee of A Christmas Carol. I especially look forward to the surprise entrance of Jacob Marley. The intensified music, the surprise pop from the trap door, and the creepy, ghostly make-up all add to Marley’s spookiness and leave the kids wondering ‘How did they do that?’ and ‘Where did he come from?!’ I love hearing the kids whisper hilarious conspiracy theories to each other. (I know this moment tends to be terrifying for little kids, but rest assured that Playhouse staff are always on standby with ‘ghost spray’.)”

Karen Kopryanski

Received: January 9, 2023

Karen’s memory comes to us in photo form!

The cast of ANNE PAGE HATES FUN 2019.

Greg Brostrom

Received: January 9, 2023

“The honor of getting to play both Black Stache and Richard III (among many other roles), and listening to my cast mates just ROCK musically.”

Greg as Black Stache in PETER AND THE STARCATCHER 2017.

James Patrick Nelson

Received: January 9, 2023

James’s memory comes to us in article form: https://medium.com/the-ascent/my-chronic-illness-was-a-blessing-502c96906157.

Jemma Alix Levy

BOARD OF TRUSTEES MEMBER

Received: January 10, 2023

“My strongest memories are from the rehearsal room during the production of The Taming of the Shrew that I directed for the 2017-18 touring company. The amount of laughter in that room! In particular, I remember a moment when KP Powell, playing Gremio, absent-mindedly handed a pile of books, one by one, to Lucentio disguised as Cambio (played by Josh Clark). When he had handed them all away, he finished his line and then suddenly couldn’t figure out what had happened to his books. Almost apoplectic, he turned to demand of Cambio, “What will you read to her?” The entire room burst out laughing, and we had to stop rehearsal for a moment so we could all catch our breath.”

KP Powell and Constance Swain in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW 2017-18.

JOHN W.

Received: January 10, 2023

“Fairies/Puck rappelling down through a hatch in the ceiling during MIDSUMMER.”

CORRIE GREEN

CURRENT ASC ACTOR

Received: January 11, 2023

“This was my first year working with ASC, and it was worthwhile! I had always hoped to work in this space and bring stories that mattered to life using classical text! I however wasn’t expecting my favorite memory of this season to be my now husband Josh Moody to propose to me during a talkback of Comedy of Errors. Another cast member Sydney Crutcher organized the whole thing along with the whole team. It was a life changing moment that connected the feeling of family I had with my coworkers and collaborators with my actual family!”

Corrie and Josh getting engaged on the Blackfriars Playhouse stage in Spring 2022.

ANONYMOUS

Received: January 11, 2023

“I guess it was about five years ago. I was in Staunton for a conference and staying right next door to this wonderful venue. I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into; it was suggested as an evening opportunity. The moment I walked in the theater, I was floored—the architectural detail, the historical authenticity, the absolute joy of feeling like this was the way that The Bard had done it. When the performance started, I felt like I was enthralled in the story. Every line was delivered with such perfection. The acoustics were superb. The staging made everything come alive. The moments before the production—travel, meals, iPhone, etc. seemed to completely melt away, as I felt like “this” is truly what great drama is all about. Since then, I’ve been to a number of performances. Unfortunately, it means having to travel and stay the night. One of the highlights was Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” I had taught this a number of years ago. I was super familiar with its theme, its dialogue, its staging. As I watched it, it was like I had never seen it before. The actress who played Emily had me in tears. Oh, ASC, if you were only closer, I would have a subscription and never miss a performance!”

Analise

Received: January 11, 2023

“Share the light! It was so fun to see so many kids of all ages enjoying theatre and making theatre on the Blackfriars stage!”

Share the Light December 2022.

Mari Bonomi

ASC DONOR

Received: January 11, 2023

“Watching Allison Glenzer in School for Scandal (2017) from a Gallant Stool…and as we gallants often do, I reacted to something she said along the lines of “surely I am not…” by shaking my head no. She came over and kissed me on the forehead. (I miss Allison’s antics with the poster raffle tickets– I had many enjoyable interactions with her during those moments.)”

Shellie McHenry

Received: January 11, 2023

“Due to my love for ASC, we moved to Staunton in 2021. Prior to that, for over ten years, I would bring students on a 3-hour (each way) bus trip to see the student matinees. I have many wonderful ASC memories, new and old, but still to this day, each time I witness one of my students see a show on the ASC stage for the first time, it’s an infectious magic. There is just no experience to compare it to. The attached screenshot is sent with permission from a former student of mine who still remembers her first trip to ASC.”

Jeff Meade

Received: January 11, 2023

“Being escorted into the basement of the Blackfriars when a tornado warning was issued. Appropriately, the play was The Comedy of Errors.”

Aili Huber

Received: January 11, 2023

“The year is 2003. It’s my first Blackfriars experience: the Scottish play, directed by Jim Warren. It’s was sitting in the balcony on the house right side. Everything was pretty normal until the actor playing Banquo (I think his name was…Kevin Hauer or something like that) looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘There is husbandry in heaven. Her candles are all out,’ as if *I* was the dutiful housewife of heaven who’d taken care of turning out the lights. In that moment, I fell in love with Banquo. The whole play became about him. When he was murdered, I was FURIOUS. That instant, which showed me the power of a theater where the actors and audience can see each other, literally changed my life and set the course of the past 20 years.”

Aidan O’Reilly

CURRENT ASC ACTOR

Received: January 12, 2023

“Some of the most fun I’ve ever had onstage was playing Barnardine in Measure for Measure at the American Shakespeare Center back in 2016. You’re only onstage for about a minute and a half but, man, is it fun. You’re a prisoner slated to be executed and you’ve been in this precarious position for almost ten years but you got “friends” in high places so your beheading keeps getting delayed and you’re drunk all the time and partying and crazy and scary enough that everybody gives you whatever you demand. When you’re told it’s your time to be executed you simply say that you’re not in the mood and you’re obstinate enough that your guards actually leave you alone. Kinda like Keith Richards you’ve decided to have a good time so nothing is going to kill you and since you understand this intrinsically it seems to work. The production was done with Renaissance staging conditions so we had no director and could come up with the look for our characters which our astonishingly talented design team would run with and improve upon. As Barnardine I had it so that punk rock music with unintelligible lyrics was blaring in my cell and I had a ball and chain which I carried around as though it was light as a feather and Patrick Midgley came up with a routine where I was causality swinging this ball and chain around and hitting him in the stomach and the back of his head and I never noticed I’d struck him and after I told my guards I wasn’t inclined to be executed the alwayd gorgeous Ginna Hoben reached out an elegant arm from my cell and pulled me back in. I was doubled with another character who had far more stage time in this production but I always was just biding my time till I got to be this mad prisoner for a minute and a half. The next time I’m living in the same town for long enough to own a hound dog I think i am gonna name him Barnardine.”

Aidan as Barnardine in MEASURE FOR MEASURE 2016.

David Millstone

Received: January 14, 2023

“We were performing Henry IV, Part 1 during our Spring season in the Blackfriars, after months of touring, so it was a show we’d done literally dozens of times. We were only a couple of minutes into my opening monologue as Henry IV, when I utterly and seemingly irretrievably ‘went up’ on my lines—I had NO idea of what came next. We had a full house. The cast—sitting around the edges of the stage (it was one of ‘those’ shows) and on stage just seemed to look at me blankly, when fellow actor Bridget Esterhuizen, standing just upstage of me, began saying my next lines, in character, as if in dialogue with me rather than seeming to ‘feed me’ my lines, flooding me with relief and gratitude. I nodded slightly, turned a quarter upstage to acknowledge her with a smile, picked up her thread, and continued on with the speech. (adding to my tension in the moment had been my inexplicable inability EVER in ANY performance to correctly stress the word “sepulcher,” a failure I believe came close to getting me fired–oy.) It was a good show.”

Kristen Grathwol

Received: January 18, 2023

“I remember the first time I sat in the balcony, there were several of us sitting in the first row. We were joking that we probably wouldn’t get as much interaction from the actors from up there. As if they heard us, during the opening song one of the actors walked directly down the aisle and started to climb one of the columns so that he could sing directly to us! We were so surprised!”

KELLIE Grathwol

Received: January 18, 2023

“While watching the play The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), one of actors came and sat next to me while pretending he was taking a break from the show. As he got back up to rejoin the other actors on stage, he “tripped” over my purse and then proceeded to go through it and pull things out to show the rest of the audience! I always have fun at the Playhouse and this night was no exception!

Pat Crist

Received: January 18, 2023

“I taught Taming of the Shrew for many years in my 8th grade English class. The kids loved acting it out and felt empowered learning something often reserved for high school. Their enthusiasm made teaching my favorite play wonderful. My husband, who is a retired E.E. prof, willingly (if I translated for him) took me to the performance of Taming of the Shrew at American Shakespeare Center for my birthday. The staff discovered I taught the play, and afterward, presented me with a Taming of the Shrew poster, signed by the actors and actresses, a generous and kind gesture that I will always remember.”

Dana Flanders

ASC DONOR AND FORMER TRUSTEE

Received: January 18, 2023

“When my daughter couldn’t believe every town didn’t have a Shakespeare Theater!”

Hero Medina

Received: January 19, 2023

“Dress rehearsal 2019! It had been 12 hours of rehearsals and activities and we still had to walk back to the dorms, but it was so worth it!”

ASC Theatre Camp 2019.

Liam Riley

Received: January 20, 2023

“I remember the very moment when I first appeared on stage during my first year of ASCTC. It was exhilarating, like I had finally found where I belonged and it was because of the support and encouragement of all the wonderful people at the ASC and the friends that I made at camp that I decided to pursue an education and career in acting. As soon as I stepped in front of the crowd and said my first line, my world finally began to have meaning.”

Geoffrey Kent

Received: January 20, 2023

“My first moment with a packed student matinee for Julius Caesar playing Mark Antony. I’ll never forget it. The ASC space is so welcoming and unique and designed for people to lean in. Couple that with the encouragement of us to direct address and it makes for a dreamlike acting experience. Wandering into the audience with Caesar’s (fake) bloody mantle and encouraging them to touch it, feel it and respond with rage. Wild. Top five acting experience and only really possible at ASC.”

Geoffrey as Mark Antony in JULIUS CAESAR 2019.

Sophie Nicholson

Received: January 20, 2023

“I have so many fond memories of the ASC, from being a camper in 2018 to working their in 2021 and more. But I will never forget watching Taming of the Shrew before it left for tour in 2017. It was my first visit, and I fell in love with the magic! ‘Whistle for the Choir’ by the Fratellis was in the pre-show set—I remember sitting with my family and feeling this great sense of belonging and joy. A memory with more calamity was the summer 2021 Macbeth at the rose terrace of MBU. There was quite a storm, and the whole company and crew running to preserve the equipment, working as a team, and was unforgettable.”

Sarah Enloe

Received: January 21, 2023

“I have so many, many memories from my nearly 20 years working in Education for the ASC, it is truly difficult to narrow it down to just one—so I submit 3, each should stand alone:

  1. The Actors’ Renaissance Season in its infancy (2005-2010 or there about) offered so many amazing experiences and gave us (staff and cast) so many chances to learn and explore. In all ARS shows, a prompter was ready to provide a line, and given the very limited rehearsal time and sheer number of shows/lines the troupe had to keep in their heads, they were often called on to help keep the show on track when an actor called “prithee”, a gentle and iambic manner of asking for a line. At one moment in 2006’s Devil is An Asse in which Greg Phelps—whose ability to be absolutely present in the moment in every show I have ever seen him in—appeared onstage as a Spanish Lady (his character in disguise) in a very early show in the process (maybe opening night), rather than saying prithee when the audience’s laughter at his costume change tested his memory, he instead called out “por favor” sending the audience into further fits of laughter (and made the prompter’s assist difficult to hear!).
  2. Another time that amazed and delighted a small group of students happened at a Richard III matinee, after a morning workshop with Chris Johnston and Jeremy West. In the “directing” workshop, the actors would show a scene and the students would offer suggestions around text, staging, or audience contact. During the workshop, the students suggested a moment of audience address for Chris’s murderer and Chris made a discovery which he loved. Because the show took place during the ARS, Chris had the agency to make the change to his character and did just that at the afternoon show (and for the rest of the season).
  3. I love how moments in our education programs can make their way to stage—whether in a workshop, a teacher gathering, camp, or from the MBU graduate program. One of those discoveries happened at a teacher seminar during the run of Macbeth, in which the teachers were examining the impact of adhering strictly to the Folio when staging. They noted that no exit was indicated for Fleance during the murder of Banquo. So, they kept Fleance onstage hiding behind an audience member in the gallant seats until after the murders finished the jb and dragged the young man’s father offstage. Making that audience member part of protecting the young character and showing Fleance’s terrified response to the rest of the audience increased the buy-in and empathy of the viewers astronomically, and the discovery made its way into our next production.”

Marshall B Garrett

Received: January 21, 2023

“In 2016, I had the (un?)enviable job of directing 2 Henry VI in a session that also included A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I want you to put yourself in the shoes of a 14-18 year old going to Shakespeare camp, and ask yourself which one you want to be in. Which part in Dream are you picturing yourself in? That’s what I thought. Anyway. 2H6 has a much bigger cast, so more than half of the campers were cast in 2H6. From what I can remember, the campers go to do something super fun while the directors cast the plays, and then the lists go up, the campers eat, and then they go right to their first read through. The RDAs and Lia (camp director) all later reported to me the level of disappointment that most of the kids cast in 2H6 showed when they saw the list, and I definitely saw it on their faces when they came into that read through. The beautiful thing about camp and this memory, of course, is that that this is the only time any of us ever saw that disappointment.

That read-through is one of the most fun days I’ve ever had—students calling out death counts, laughing at 400 year old “your mama” jokes, and the sheer unbridled chaos of making Jack Cade a 14 year old boy leading a Lord of the Flies-style rebellion. We laughed, shouted, and generally had a high energy read through of the play. That energy carried through to the performance three weeks later.”

Tessa Widenhofer

Received: January 21, 2023

“My Mayterm Acting Shakespeare class took a trip down to Staunton in May of 2018 to see a few shows; I had no idea what to expect, but I was very excited to be there. The first show we saw that weekend was Sense and Sensibility and I was enamored- THIS was why I was studying theatre. Afterwards, Annabelle came out and chatted with us and thank us for being such lively audience members. Well, the shows continued to be wonderful and we continued to be lively, so after our last show before we left [The Scottish Play], we actually got to stick around and hang out with the cast to celebrate Annabelle’s birthday. It was one of the most perfect moments- not just in my theatre-going experience—but in my entire life, and it only possible because of the magic of ASC and the incredible folks behind it.”

Josh Innerst

Received: January 23, 2023

“The duel in Hamlet typically leads to a stab from Laertes when Hamlet isn’t expecting it on the line ‘have at you now!’ The swords get switched, Laertes gets stabbed, and the rest is silence. It fits with the text. Every time I had seen or been in the play, that’s how it was done. In 2018, Benjamin Reed, who was playing Laertes as well as choreographing the fight, noticed the stage directions in the First Folio were much simpler, and suggested we do something different that would still fit the text. We begin the final phrase of the duel, allow the swords to get switched as part of the natural flow of an intense fight, Hamlet lands a third blow on Laertes not realizing that the blade is “unbated and envenomed,” and—noticing Laertes’s reaction to the wound—accidentally pricks his own finger while investigating the blade point leading to ‘they bleed on both sides.’ This isn’t how it’s usually done. I thought it was a bit bonkers and was sure that we would need to change it after the first audience. I could not have been more wrong. Each night I could hear people muttering, ‘No-no-no-no-no-don’t do it’ as I slid my finger along what Hamlet thought was a dull blade. It was fascinating to watch the audience experience genuine surprise by a story they thought they knew so well—not because we were doing something out of left field, but because we were just exploring the action with a different perspective on the text. That moment stands out to me as a memory of what the ASC does so well. Trust the text and trust your scene partner. That’s how it’s done. I feel lucky to have been a part of such a wonderful ensemble.”

Benjamin and Josh in HAMLET 2018.

Bernard Bygott

Received: January 23, 2023

“I have many joyous memories from my run at ASC which was right at the time Shenandoah Shakespeare changed its name to American Shakespeare Center. Attending the name change ceremony at the Blackfriars Playhouse was exciting. But to pick two personal memories, I will go with a twin set from our 2005 production of The Comedy of Errors: David Loar’s exposition at the top of the show as Aegeon, and hugging fellow Dromio, James Keegan, at the end. I learned that it was possible to be a compelling storyteller without any gimmicks from David, and I learned that there is nothing better at the end of a show where you have given everything than a hug from a brother who has done the same. Those were great lessons about trust in your inherent worth and giving your whole heart. You can probably make an entire career on those two principles alone. I must just try that.”

Benjamin Reed

Received: January 25, 2023

“My favorite memory of ASC is getting to play opposite with the undeniably fierce talent of my wife, Lauren Reed! Specifically as Peter in Peter in the Starcatcher and Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing! And getting to play so much music together.”

Lauren and Ben (and Christopher Seiler) in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING 2017.

KM

Received: January 25, 2023

“My grandparents are ushers so we get free tickets. I was having a really bad day, but I was looking forward to watching the last dress rehearsal of The Comedy of Errors. The drive there was terrible. We had a lot of traffic, it was raining, just a mess. Walking in, I felt a bit better, but the moment one of the twins said something that made me laugh I felt better. (Now, it wasn’t just the twins. It was everyone who was acting that day, I just specifically remember that being the first time I smiled that day.) I knew that by the end of the show I was going to feel better. Every single show that I have watched has made my day better. With the amazing singing and music at the beginning, it starts the show off great. By the end, I want to watch the performance again. You guys are amazing. Keep it up!”

Becki Jones

Received: February 2, 2023

“My favorite American Shakespeare Center memory is the night I completed seeing the whole canon of Shakespeare’s plays (including Edward III!) on July 12, 2009 with Titus Andronicus. Sarah Fallon – Tamara – was kind enough to pose for a photo with me in the lobby. Later, after adjourning to the pub, my niece and Shakespeare geek protégé, Molly Hood, now a tenured theatre professor at Radford University, presented me with a facsimile First Folio, and a certificate she had made, proclaiming me to be ‘Most Grand Mistress of the Canon’!”

Marty Steinberg

Received: February 3, 2023

“We loved your Julius Caesar. I needed a bit of air after all that blood so I headed toward the lobby where I found them cleaning off the knives.”

Amy Wolf

Received: February 16, 2023

“My husband and I met through online dating—and for our first date I invited him to come see Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) back in 2019. I figured if he was different than he seemed online, being in a building where I knew everyone (and the lights were on) would be a good bet. While we both acknowledge the first date wasn’t great (not because of the show—that was very fun), we’re glad we stuck it out and get to come see shows here all the time.”

Libby Mitchel

Received: February 20, 2023

“My husband and I were set up on a blind date attending a performance of The Merry Wives of Windsor. I was impressed that he wanted to see a Shakespeare play, he was delighted that I enjoyed it so much, and the rest is history. We started falling in love with each other on the front row of the center balcony, and are still falling for each other today. We’ve been back a few times since that day, and enjoy reliving our story that had its beginning at the ASC.”

Brooke Spatol

Received: March 4, 2023

“As a Mary Baldwin student I took full advantage of seeing as many ASC shows as possible. Though I did see over 200 shows, my favorite memory came from a dress rehearsal. During a dress rehearsal of Henry VI, Part III, Chris Johnston (Henry VI) delivered what I call the ‘swain speech’ and made eye contact with me during the speech. Little did he know, it is my favorite speech in the cannon. Seeing my favorite speech come to life and being put on a stage where it invites audiences to be part of the story is an experience that has stuck with me. Everything I learned as an actor, I learned from that theatre.”

Jess Snellings

Received: March 17, 2023

“In fall of 2012, I attended a show at the Blackfriars for the first time – it was Two Gents under the direction of Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen, and it was like nothing I’d seen before. I felt immersed in the play instead of a passive observer. First of all, there was live music! IN the show! And from the moment Valentine entered through the discovery space with Proteus on his back, I was captivated. Suddenly, Shakespeare wasn’t just a compilation of text that played monotonously through my head. They were living words the actors breathed life into to tell a (hilarious) story. That was also the moment I realized I’d found what I wanted to do with my life. Now I’m in the Shakespeare and Performance program at Mary Baldwin University, and the American Shakespeare Center has had a major part in this adventure. Thank you.”

Cliff Garstang

FORMER TRUSTEE

Received: March 24, 2023

“I have so many fond memories of ASC and the Blackfriars—beginning when I made my first visit to Staunton while the Playhouse was still under construction—that it’s hard to pick just one. But one memory that stands out was during a production of Our Town. I took my seat not knowing that whoever occupied that seat would be assigned a line to speak during the play. The instructions were printed on a card, along with the cue (delivered by Ross Neal, who was playing George) and the line. I was so relieved when that scene was done so I could enjoy the rest of the play!”

Ross Neal and Constance Swain in OUR TOWN 2017.

JIM PRINTY

USHER

Received: March 24, 2023

“As a longtime usher, especially for school matinees, I have so many memories but am struggling to pick anything unique. I love the experience of seeing students experience live theatre, particularly Shakespeare, for the first time. Just this past week I heard a typical response as a student was leaving the theatre, ‘That was the best two hours of my life!'”

Cheryl and Mark Keeler

ASC DONORS

Received: March 24, 2023

“We go back to the black box days of SSE at THMS when we and our 8 year old son discovered that Shakespeare was for regular people like ourselves. People who didn’t do evening clothes and poshness. This theater was certainly not evening clothes and poshness; it was funny and sad and plain down delightful!

Our son’s fond first memory is being guided onto the stage to join a dance with the cast and other audience members, one of whom lost a shoe during the romp. A quick-thinking actor picked it up and held it in their mouth before returning it at the end of the dance. We were captivated by these actors, right there near us. Everything was so immediate, so alive. We were a part of it. We felt transported by a scarf flung around a neck to create a fascinating woman. Or a stack of boxes that became a throne. Or a lusty song that made us want to join right in. We loved entering the action because there was no interfering set or dimmed lights between us and the amazing talent of the playwright and the actors who brought his words and characters into our lives with such skill and passion.

Thirty some years later, we’re still captivated.”

Linda Nicholson Freeman

Received: March 26, 2023

“I was introduced to ASC when I co-taught an online course in Shakespeare for Henrico County. My co-teacher and I would bring our online classes to see the student performances, but then, when I colleague and I began to sponsor field trips to ASC at our East End home school, we began to have young people whom we didn’t even teach approach us and say, ‘I hear that you’re taking a trip to ASC. May I go?’ Of course, we always agreed and were thrilled that the quality of ASC’s performances allowed us to bring about 100 students on each trip who learned to love Shakespeare. It’s a magical feeling that I’ll never forget.”

The magic continues at student matinees today, like this one from MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING 2023.

Richard McPherson

ASC DONOR AND FORMER TRUSTEE

Received: March 28, 2023

“Being a child and having Chicken McNuggets thrown at me during a performance of Taming of the Shrew.”

Pamela Royston Macfie

ASC DONOR AND FORMER TRUSTEE

Received: March 29, 2023

“I will never forget Rick Blunt’s unconventional casting as Puck in Ralph Cohen’s 2018 A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This muscular actor’s girth might have appeared to disqualify him from playing a fairy sprite, but Blunt appeared on the stage in a quicksilver belly-slide that defied the laws of gravity. He was the topsy-turvy spirit of metamorphosis itself, and every school child in the theatre chortled with delight!”

ACEY

Received: March 31, 2023

“The first show I saw at ASC was Macbeth. My older brother was learning about it in English class and wasn’t fully getting it, so my parents took us to go see it. I remember seeing the stage for the first time and loving it. Looking at all the details, listening to the music and just feeling happy to be there. During the show, I kept leaning forward in my seat, just wanting to be as close as possible to the stage. During intermission, my mom leaned over and said, ‘They have a camp here for acting, would you want to go?’ I got so excited at the thought of that camp. I ran down to the front desk to ask for information and the lady behind the desk said ‘we just got the pamphlets today.” It felt like it was meant to be. I ended up going to YCTC/ASCTC for 6 sessions and loved every single one of them. I haven’t been to the theatre in awhile, but I’m always checking in and hoping to go back soon.”

Kim Buss

Received: April 15, 2023

“I’m a veteran usher. ASC opening night was memorable. Bubbles coming down from heavens, I was hooked.
I have very fond memory of a girl scout troop, aged around 8, being sat on stage for Merry Wives. Near the end of the show, all those girls were happy sprites and fairies pinching, tickling in a circle around our poor Sir John Falstaff.

Other fun moments: Doreen as Puck being lowered down from the heavens. Tyler as Cyrano (I cried every show). The very first time we had the Ghost of Christmas Future on stilts had the whole place dead silent. Three Musketeers and amazing swordsmanship from JP. Forbidden Planet with music and an actor on skates. Sarah’s portrail of Cleopatra. Oh my God, David L. in Merchant tugged at my heart. I loved Peter and Starcatcher with its fun romp. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson for its subtle messaging. It’s a beautiful ride everyday. I can’t list all my favorite shows, nor favorite actors but I can say this theater is truly a work of art in itself. I’ve been proud to participate in my small way to make people happy.”

Madeleine Buttitta

Received: April 24, 2023

“The pre-show is one of my favorite parts of the American Shakespeare Center experience. You get a feel for the vibe, the character, and the energy of the show before the first scripted word is uttered. One of my all-time favorite pre-show moments was for the 2019 production of Henry IV, Part 1, in which we see an entire musical sequence between Prince Hal and Hotspur (played by Brandon Carter and KP Powell, respectively) many moons before their climatic battle, backed by the rest of the talented cast. There was so much energy and fervor that the audience was totally riled up and invested, myself with them. Then, as the two exited (so they could make their entrances), we heard Hotspur rap part of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DNA,’ continuing the excitement right to the end, and the crowd went wild! It was an amazing experience, one only found in this theatre here.”

Collins and Charlotte Beagle

ASC DONORS

Received: May 3, 2023

“When the Blackfriars Playhouse first opened one thing it was noted for was the very physical nature of the performances. The actors would readily climb across scenery suspended between the balcony and the stage. When you attended plays in those early days you never knew what to expect. For us, the ultimate such action came during an early production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The actress playing Puck made a most dramatic entrance by descending from a hole in the ceiling to the stage floor. The audience really reacted to such a theatrical design. Given that I have a fear of heights only compounded the effect to make it perhaps the most memorable theater experience I have had.

In time such practices ceased though. We came for a play one day and we saw an actor had a bandaged foot. It turns out the actor a couple days earlier had slipped off the rigging set up on the stage and had injured his ankle. That was the end of such daring on the Blackfriars’ stage. It was a pleasure to watch as long as it lasted but it is safer for the actors now.”

Doreen Bechtol in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM 2004

Alan Baragona

Received: May 12, 2023

“My wife and I discovered Shenandoah Shakespeare Express by chance in 1989 when the troupe was performing The Taming of the Shrew (their only play that second season of the SSE) at a middle school auditorium. I was so enchanted that, as soon as I could raise the funds, I started bringing troupes to Virginia Military Institute, where I taught English, as many as three times a year until the Blackfriars opened and I could bring them to Shakespeare instead of bringing Shakespeare to them. I especially appreciated the actors’ audience interaction with the cadets. One of my favorite instances occurred in 1996. The performance of Henry V was in a makeshift theater-in-the-round in the Alumni Building’s banquet hall, so the audience was right on top of the actors. In Act III, Scene 4, when Princess Katherine (Julie Paparella) asks her lady in waiting Alice (Heather Peak) to teach her English so that she can communicate with Henry when he conquers the French. Alice starts with body parts in an exaggerated French accent: zee honds, zee fang-res, zee nayels, zee head, zee nick. When Princess Kate repeated the catalogue, instead of touching her own body parts, she perched herself on the lap of a cadet and stroked his hands, fingers, head, and neck. He blushed bright red, and because he was a ‘Rat,’ his head was shaved, so the blush went all the way up from his neck to his scalp. It was brilliant, and I’m sure the young man, now in his 40’s, remembers it to this day!”

Amy and Carlo Altman

Received: May 12, 2023

“Amy and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary in Staunton this month (May 2023), including an evening showing of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised] (again). The American Shakespeare Center, in particular the Blackfriars Playhouse, actually has a sort of foundational role in our relationship. Back when we were dating, I took Amy on one of our earliest big dates to see a show at Blackfriars Playhouse. It was over a decade ago, so I could be mistaken about the specific show. But I believe it was Look About You by Anonymous. That was such a wonderful trip, and enjoying that performance was a bonding experience that, I believe, was part of a series of experiences that set the course for our strong relationship. During intermission, the cast came out as a band to play some music, which gave Amy and me our song, ‘Hooked On a Feeling’ (the Blue Swede version, of course!). That is a core memory for both of us, and that song (and the cast’s wonderful performance) has stayed with us as we’ve built our life and family together. In fact, our first dance at our wedding reception was to that song. We moved around for my job over the following decade, and we have finally made our way back permanently to Virginia. We are looking forward to attending ASC performances again, starting with our anniversary!”

Alexi Sargeant

Received: July 11, 2023

“So many great memories, from seeing plays and from attending ASCTC. I want to highlight, though, the very first show I saw at the Blackfriars. It was Measure for Measure in 2008. I was there with my fellow YCTC campers (this was before the ASCTC name change!) and, as it was my first Blackfriars show, I got to sit onstage on a gallant stool. The cast was great: Sarah Fallon as Isabella, Rene Thornton Jr. as Angelo… But my memory is about the subplot. In the first scene with the comedic bawds Pompey (James Keegan) and Mistress Overdone (Allison Glenzer), I was picked on in an audience interaction moment—probably Pompey identifying my young self as one of their disreputable customers! What I remember best from that moment, though, is Allie’s pitch-perfect bit of improv as Mistress Overdone. I must have looked timid while Pompey teased me, because Allie came over and gave me a pat on the cheek, ad-libbing ‘No need to be so nervous, dearie’ in a kind voice before dropping back into the ribaldry of the text. It was a very special introduction to the way audience interaction works on the Blackfriars stage.”

Janice O’Rourke

BOARD OF TRUSTEES MEMBER

Received: July 21, 2023

“Darren and I met in what was, I think, the first touring company of the Shenandoah Shakespeare Express. We held steak knives in this publicity photo and I remember thinking, ‘this guys cute… but it would be bad to get involved. ‘ We’ve been together ever since! We performed three shows with twelve actors, minimal sets, costumes and props. The company toured in a van across the U.S. performing in high schools, colleges and even at the Folger Library in DC. We hopped the pond to the U.K. playing Edinburgh Festival and London at the site that would soon be The Globe theater. I had never been out of the country until then! We portrayed the Macbeth couple and people who put us up in their homes would joke about having to lock their bedroom doors at night given Lady and Mr. Macbeth were sleeping overnight. So many great memories of that tour and the company of actors I consider family to this day.”

WREN

Received: August 21, 2023

“ASC Theatre Camp this year- I’m sure so many people have said this, but it’s true! I got to experience a really healthy and safe theatre environment, be part of a great show, and make some really great friends (that I miss every day).”

Kathryn Wildt

Received: August 27, 2023

“My favorite ASC memory is actually a Shenandoah Shakespeare Express memory. In the mid 90s, SSE did a production of Macbeth followed by a presentation on how the blood that the witches used was made. I remember red food coloring and grapefruit flesh for texture. It was amazing!”

Jeffrey Chips

Received: August 29, 2023

Jeffrey’s memory is featured on this ASC blog post.

Nick Hutchison

Received: September 1, 2023

“I am so lucky to have so many ASC memories, many from way back when it was Shenandoah Shakespeare and the Blackfriars was merely a glint in Ralph Alan Cohen’s eye.

I directed Much Ado back in 1999, rehearsing in a room at Mary Baldwin in competition with marching band practise next door, and remember the first show in a community college competing with the noise of the vending machines.

Most of all I remember the first time Ralph showed me on to the Blackfriars stage—the wonder at what he, Jim Warren, and those brilliant craftsmen and women had achieved…I was blessed to be asked to speak on behalf of the old country at the grand opening in 2001, and to rehearse Love’s Labour’s and Importance of Being Earnest on that gorgeous stage with superlative actors, many of whom remain close friends.

I remember being part of a tribute to Barbara Mowat at the Conference, and giving papers there afraid of the humiliation of the timing bear…you have such special and magical place in your wonderful town…treasure it, and I cannot wait to be back with you some day soon.”

Jean Quinlan

PHOENIX SOCIETY MEMBER AND FORMER USHER

Received: November 4, 2023

“In my ten years as an usher I saw so many excellent performances it is hard to choose! However, one of the most affecting was The Willard Suitcases. It was just so beautiful, and when I thought of the effort and dedication it took to bring that collection of songs into a living performance it just took my breath away! I must have seen it half a dozen times, both as an usher and with my family, whom I told could simply not miss it. The songs are in my memory and the memory of those who performed them. The entire production was an incredible work of art. The realization that it would never happen in that way again, that we who were present at its first and then the last performances, would never see it again, was bittersweet. So good, so lovely, it still has the power to bring tears to my eyes.”

Sylvie Davidson and the cast of THE WILLARD SUITCASES by Julianne Wick Davis.

 

Linda Freeman

Received: November 4, 2023

“January 2010 – We had a first date to see ASC’s Twelfth Night, and things went so well afterwards that we were married in June 2011. And yes, we continue to travel from Richmond to see the outstanding performances in Blackfriars Playhouse.”

Amber James

MARKETING MANAGER

Received: November 9, 2023

“In 2018 I was living in DC and my dad invited my husband and I to join my parents and younger sister (then in high school) to take a day trip to Staunton see TAMING OF THE SHREW, since my sister was reading it for school and wasn’t quite “getting it” on paper only. My dad had booked seats up in the side balcony, but when the actors offered up an empty gallant stool during the pre-show speech, I jumped at the opportunity to sit onstage instead. I ended up sitting by myself, but I was kept compnay with visits from many of the characters in the story. My favorite moment was when Annabelle Rollison’s Kate stood next to me for an entire scene, leaning on the side stage wall and whispering sassy side-comments. I felt immersed in the story and engaged with the wonderful humor of the cast because of my close proximity to the fun they all were having. It was an experience I’ll never forget. One year later, I was accepted into Mary Baldwin’s Shakespeare grad program and the rest is history!”

Cass Morris

Received: November 22, 2023

“With seven years working in ASC Education, I have so many amazing experiences to choose from. It was such a joy to get people on that stage and playing with text. (Truly, you haven’t lived until you’ve watched a bunch of high schoolers or business professionals gleefully using cue scripts and embedded stage directions to figure out how to murder Caesar.)

One moment that I think about a lot, though, is one I witnessed in 2012. I was watching Dido, Queen of Carthage from one of my favorite spots, upstairs, stage left, leaning over the balustrade. As Sarah Fallon went into Dido’s final monologue, building her own funeral pyre and lamenting the betrayal of Aeneas, I noticed a woman on the gallant stools just…sobbing. She was trying to hold it in, hold it together, because she knew she was very, very visible—but something about the words and the performance had clearly struck her to the core, and she wept as though truly heartbroken. Watching her, in turn, affected me. My experience of the play was altered and enhanced because I could see her—another human, who I did not know and never saw again, but someone whose emotions reached me nonetheless.

That is the unique magic of the space, transformed by the interplay of words, actors, and audience. All three are critical components of the spell, with no division of lighting or distance standing between them. It’s always a delight to behold, and absolutely my favorite kind of theatre, but sometimes, it goes beyond entertainment and becomes something truly sublime. Sometimes, you can feel that magic, crackling in the air.”

Maisie

Received: November 27, 2023

“I got to see The Taming of The Shrew twice back in 2018! I was in 9th grade at the time and I had to read the play for class. That play was my introduction to Shakespeare, and to this day, I still love reading and seeing his plays. I largely credit ASC for this love. The way that cast brought Taming to life was truly mesmerizing. The costumes, the delivery of each line, the body language…it brought Shakespeare to life for me. I have seen multiple productions of Shakespeare’s plays since then (even another Taming), and none of them can compare to the one I saw your company perform. Thank you, ASC, and Happy 35th!!

Rosalind Collins

Received: December 27, 2023

“For Christmas and her birthday, I always got tickets to American Shakespeare Center for mom and me and whoever could join us, friends, family. Mom died rather unexpectedly this year. And now my very favorite ASC memory, among so many great performances, will be seeing As You Like It, for whom my mother named me Rosalind, for my birthday just this year. We had the whole front row and enjoyed being the target of many a playful line. We took this group photo. I believe it is the last photo of mom and me ever taken. Thank you for this treasured memory ASC! And I wish you and our community many thousands more.”

Right to left: Julia Beall, Chris Tolar, David Martin, Abby Shirkey, JeffMo, Rosalind Collins, E. Brandon Collins, Elizabeth Collins, Carla Coe, Lisa Eller
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