The American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse is the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s performance space. Since 2001, it has been treating audiences to performances that capture not only the magic of Shakespeare’s stories (all 38 of them), but also the historic and cultural atmosphere surrounding the shows. While the past year has been incredibly challenging for performance venues, ASC is now cautiously welcoming the public for live performances and educational experiences as well as continuing a robust selection of virtual options.
Beginning in May, the ASC will offer a summer packed with performances as part of their annual Actors’ Renaissance Season. The productions will attempt to mimic the performance conditions common in Shakespeare’s time, where actors had a great deal of creative license and writer/performer roles sometimes blurred. Seasoned ASC actors will perform a rotating set of plays, rehearsing them in a short period of time without directors. Not only do the actors control their performance decisions, they also plan costumes, music, props and more, and that kind of creative empowerment can lead to exciting and memorable productions. This summer, audiences can enjoy Macbeth, Henry V, and All’s Well That Ends Well.
- “Electrifying and immediate, Macbeth plunges headlong into the darkest depths of the human condition and the toxic underbelly of politics and warfare—with murder begetting murder, and blood thirsting for blood. This twisted tale ends as it began, in the manifestation of a dark prophecy; with one final, fatal blow, the light prevails and tomorrow dawns anew.”
- “In this final, epic installment of Shakespeare’s Henriad trilogy, ASC veteran Brandon Carter leads ‘once more unto the breach’ as King Henry V—one of the greatest monarchs in English history. Swashbuckling adventure and romance burst at the seams of this the most exciting of Shakespeare’s histories, which ends, as so many of the great stories do, in a wedding.”
- “Helena has a heart that will not be denied. All’s Well That Ends Well upends and reexamines the love story, reveling in the imperfection. Part fairy tale, part farce, and all heart, this often-overlooked masterpiece takes audiences on a hilarious journey through courtship and class, danger and desire, and ridicule and (if the title proves true) redemption.”
Starting May 13th, the actors will bring Macbeth to the ASC’s outdoor venue on the Mary Baldwin University’s historic brick Rose Terrace. Henry V will join the lineup in June, and you can see it indoors at the Blackfriars. In August, All’s Well That Ends Well will also be staged at the Blackfriars. If you’d rather not venture into a public performance space just yet, you can stream the plays via BlkFrsTV.
Is it Safe to Attend a Live Performance?
Tickets to shows at the Blackfriars are available at reduced capacity to ensure that the audience is able to social distance. Increased sanitation and universal masking will also keep people safe. Last summer, ASC’s infectious disease specialist-guided SafeStart Summer Season was a leader in bringing safe, live theater to audiences.
Other Ways to Enjoy the ASC
Performances and educating the public have always gone together at the ASC, and the education team has developed a digital curriculum. The virtual SHX Series targets teachers and their classes, homeschooling parents, and drama enthusiasts. They seek to make Shakespeare accessible with interactive workshops, study guides, virtual performances, and other customized experiences.
Want to keep the kids occupied while building their self-esteem and exercising their creativity? Check back later in the summer for more information on online after-school programs, guaranteed to get students (ages 9-18) excited about theater, history, and language.
The Blackfriars Playhouse holds the international biennial Blackfriars Conference every other autumn. Shakespeareans, scholars and practitioners congregate to share discoveries and learn about early modern theatre. The next conference is scheduled for October 28-30, 2021.
Support the Blackfriars
Though the vaccine is widely available and restrictions are lifting, it’s still been a tough year for the ASC. Click here to help them “keep the lights on!”