The American Shakespeare Center on Tour specializes in riveting, heart-pounding performances of Shakespeare and other early modern works. If you’ve ever visited our home stage at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia, you know how much energy and fun we pack into each and every show. You can choose from three different plays, which are performed in true rotating repertory by 11 professional actors. Our tour uses Shakespeare’s Staging Conditions and features world-class productions just like those seen on the Blackfriars Playhouse stage. Our focus is always on remarkable performances through expert acting and a focus on the language rather than spinning tales with elaborate set pieces and electronic wizardry. Actors wear beautiful costumes and use some small set pieces and props, but the ASC on Tour specializes in the “theater of the imagination.” Like early modern acting companies, actors play multiple roles in a single show. The house lights remain on during performances, and the actors surround themselves with audience members on three sides. This inclusive arrangement allows the audience to enjoy the same festive sense of community experienced at Shakespeare’s original Blackfriars Playhouse in London. The celebration starts before the show and continues during the intermission when the actors perform live, unplugged music including classic rock, Top 40 hits, original songs, and more. ASC on Tour is committed to making English Renaissance plays immediate and engaging to audiences all across the country.
To keep the intimate, unplugged nature of our performance intact, we prefer to limit the seating to 1,600 or fewer. We perform successfully in all types of spaces such as black box theaters, auditoriums, contemporary thrust stages, and traditional proscenium theaters. Our desire is to connect with our audience, so the more intimate the space, the better.
Not to worry, with a row or two of extra chairs on either side of the stage, we can turn a proscenium into a three-sided “thrust” in minutes. And you’ll soon discover those stage seats are often the most sought after at any ASC on Tour performance.
The ASC on Tour performs 60+ shows each year at more than 40 performing arts centers, high schools, and colleges throughout the U.S. We tour each fall and spring from mid-September through mid-November, and again from mid-January through the first week of April. The tour travels from New England to the deep south, and westward to Texas and the Midwest. Based in central Virginia, we typically head north in the fall, and to the south and Midwest in the spring.
We have a very strong education arm, and our tour actors are available to lead a variety of one-hour workshops in conjunction with our performances. More than a dozen one-hour workshops are available on topics ranging from Shakespeare’s Staging Conditions to stage combat. These workshops offer participants an exciting, hands-on learning experience in an intimate setting. With enough advance notice, our education department can even design a unique workshop to meet your community’s special needs. Workshops are generally limited to 30 participants to allow them to be interactive. A lecture/demonstration option is available for larger groups. We also offer a “talkback” option, which is a Q&A session held after a performance.
Our troupe consists of 11 actors, one tour manager and assistant tour manager, who travel with two passenger vans and an 18 foot box truck (which contains their costumes, musical instruments, props, and set pieces). We typically drive in the evening before a performance (and set up that evening) and leave the morning after the last show.
Because we follow a similar schedule year to year, our Tour Operations Manager is able to work with you to reserve a date six months to two years in advance. To reserve the date of your choice, it’s best to contact her at least a year in advance. We do occasionally have dates available within a shorter time frame.
We bring our own “discovery space” which is a portable room with a curtain from which the actors emerge; we also bring along pipe and drape to mask the backstage (if needed). Universal lighting is used throughout the performance (house lights stay on). Our actors do not generally use microphones, however you may need to provide sound reinforcement if your venue seats more than 1,000 people. If your theatre is a proscenium, we ask that you create a three-sided thrust by placing a row or two of chairs on either side of the stage.
We can do one show and up to four workshops on a single day, or two shows with no workshops in a single day.
We have been touring since 1988 and our artistic staff has literally hundreds of productions under its collective belt. We’re experienced, and it shows—from the first contact through the last curtain call, we won’t disappoint. Our celebrated, world-class performances are unforgettable and riveting—we are fiercely dedicated to exceeding the expectations of our audiences. Each show provides at least two hours of traffic on the stage, not including an intermission or the half hour pre-show of live acoustic music. Together, our dynamic performances and hands on workshops create a complete theatrical and educational experience.