14 Actors. 4 Plays. No Directors.
Born of an experiment to bring Shakespeare’s performance conditions into our rehearsal hall, the Actors’ Renaissance has become a hallmark of ASC’s unique blend of scholarship and practice. It’s our deepest dive into the Elizabethan era, and in doing it we continue to make discoveries about how things might have happened in the original Blackfriars Playhouse.
Here are the basics: A 12 to 15 member acting company composed entirely of ASC veterans performs four plays in rotating repertory, rehearsing each of them in 10 days or less, without directors. Decisions about setting, music, props, and costumes are made by the company collectively and individually, accessing ASC’s stock of clothes, swords, and furniture.
Nothing empowers the actors more than being given the reins. We’ve practiced this way for fifteen winters now, and it has created some of our most memorable productions (for good and ill)! It’s a fast-paced, fascinating experience that led Washington Post theatre critic Peter Marks to declare: “I arrived a skeptic, I left a believer.”
“2020 is the 15th anniversary of ASC’s groundbreaking exploration of director-less classical theatre: the Actors’ Renaissance, or as we affectionately shorthand it, the Ren. When this great experiment began, ASC was the modern progenitor of a very old idea: ensembles of artists organizing themselves around a text without the aid of a director. Over the last fifteen years, this practice has been studied and emulated, but nowhere has it reached fuller expression than here on the Blackfriars stage.
Join us in this Ren season of revival as we renew our familiarity with characters old and new, revisit this one-of-a-kind space, and reinvigorate our commitment to the work of ASC with the finest Shakespearean actors this side of 1611.”
– Ethan McSweeny, 2020 Actors’ Renaissance Welcome Letter