We "stumbled" upon the American Shakespeare Company (ASC) a few years ago, after seeing performances by their road company at Wintergreen Resort. We now travel the three hours from Washington, DC at least once a year to join the ASC at one of their productions. I use the term "join" rather than watch, because, unlike more traditional theaters, the ASC works to make the audience part of the overall theater experience. Their company brings energy to the classics, in a way that more traditional companies (such as Michael Kahn's more famous Shakespeare Theater Company in Washington) sometimes fail to do. The ASC is also willing to explore rarely performed Shakespeare plays, such as the three parts of King Henry VI.
These aren't definitive productions loaded with major visiting actors and expensive sets and costumes. They are, instead, joyful productions staged by actors, many of whom are in their 20s and 30s, who work to stage the plays much as Shakespeare meant them to be performed, with no sets and only basic costumes and props.
Traveling to the ASC also means experiencing Staunton, Virginia, which is itself a major attraction. If you're like us, you'll make a reservation at the Stonewall Jackson, a "grand dame" hotel that's located literally next door to the ASC, and then amble over to the theater shortly before the show begins. Downtown Staunton is also VERY easy to wander around. There are excellent restaurants, used bookstores, hobby shops, and tourist attractions (such as the Woodrow Wilson Home) within easy walking distance of the ASC.
Again, if you're looking for a Shakespeare company that brings youthful enthusiasm to the plays, set in a jewel of a mountain community, that will be really glad to see you, you can't do better than the ASC. Maybe we'll see you there!
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