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  • "A Theatre, A Giddy Receptacle?":Architecture and Audience Tectonics in the ASC's 2015 Actors' Renaissance Season
  • Molly Seremet

Mary Baldwin University The 2015 Actors' Renaissance Season at the American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, VA. January 9—April 5, 2015. Featuring, in rotating repertory:

The Rover by Aphra Behn Stage management and prompting by Glenn Schudel. Assistant stage management and props by Christopher Moneymaker. With Lauren Ballard (Hellena), Nathan C. Crocker (Belvile), Alison Glenzer (Valeria), John Harrell (Willmore), Sara Hymes (Angellica Bianca), Chris Johnston (Moretta and Lucetta), Patrick Midgley (Blunt), Benjamin Reed (Frederick), Bridget Rue (Florinda), Christopher Seiler (Stephano), René Thornton, Jr. (Don Pedro), and others.

Every Man in His Humour by Ben Jonson Stage management and prompting by Glenn Schudel. Assistant stage management and props by Christopher Moneymaker. With Michael Amendolla (Justice Clement), Lauren Ballard (Mistress Bridget), Nathan C. Crocker (Master Matthew), Allison Glenzer (Brainworm), John Harrell (Downright and Cobb), Sara Hymes (Dame Kitely), Chris Johnston (Ed Knowell), Patrick Midgley (Captain Bobadill), Benjamin Reed (Stephen), Bridget Rue (Wellbred), Christopher Seiler (Knowell), René Thornton, Jr. (Thomas Kitely), and others. [End Page 309]

The White Devil by John Webster Stage management and prompting by Glenn Schudel. Assistant stage management and props by Christopher Moneymaker. Michael Amendola (Camillo), Lauren Ballard (Giovanni), Nathan C. Crocker (Zanche), Allison Glenzer (Cornelia), John Harrell (Cardinal Monticelso), Sara Hymes (Vittoria), Chris Johnston (Flaminio), Patrick Midgley (Lodovico), Benjamin Reed (Marcello), Bridget Rue (Isabella), Christopher Seiler (Francisco de' Medici), René Thornton, Jr. (Brachiano), and others.

The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare Stage management and prompting by Glenn Schudel. Assistant stage management and props by Christopher Moneymaker. With Michael Amendolla (Pedant and Widow), Lauren Ballard (Biondello), Nathan C. Crocker (Lucentio), Allison Glenzer (Katharina), John Harrell (Gremio), Sara Hymes (Bianca), Chris Johnston (Grumio), Patrick Midgley (Hortensio), Benjamin Reed (Curtis), Bridget Rue (Tranio), Christopher Seiler (Petruchio), René Thornton, Jr. (Baptista), and others.

At the American Shakespeare Center, the Blackfriars Playhouse frequently surpasses its function as a mere playing space by entering into the action of the ASC's productions in pervasive and unique ways. As the only reconstruction of Shakespeare's indoor playing space, the Blackfriars Playhouse provides the ASC with the opportunity to frame early modern plays in the reimagined version of their original environments. This notion of originality is necessarily a complicated one, however, given that the Blackfriars is fundamentally a new space leveraging its modernity (and the concessions it makes to a modern audience) to stage its own historicity. While the ASC's actors famously "do it with the lights on," for example, they do so because of the carefully controlled aesthetic conditions inside the playhouse, crafted to invite an audience into a modernized pastiche of Shakespearean originality, complete with padded seats, electric lights, and a cash bar. This collision of the modern with the historical emerges most clearly in the Actor's Renaissance Season, the ASC's annual gleeful intervention into modernizing Original Practices in a reconstructed space with the actors at the helm. The balance of actor, playtext, and playing space stands out most notably here because the resident acting company works together without the interference of directors or designers to mount a full season of early modern plays in rotating repertory. This freedom serves double ends, making both a nod to the historicity of Shakespearean [End Page 310] staging conditions and inviting modern audiences into the world of the plays staged during the Renaissance season as they were "meant" to be experienced. Curiously, an emphasis on public trials and voyeuristic travails marked the selections in the 2015 Renaissance Season. In mounting The Taming of the Shrew, The Rover, The White Devil, and Every Man in His Humour, the company illuminated private conflicts that are played publicly by leveraging the unique character of the reconstructed playhouse, thus heightening storytelling within a space that is both historical and imagined at the same time.

At the Blackfriars, every show is performed on a mostly bare stage under universal electric lighting conditions and, as a result, the physical architecture of the playing space looms large in the eyes of the audience. In staging The Rover, for example, legendary courtesan Angellica Bianca, played by Sara Hymes, surveyed the men...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-1427
Print ISSN
0748-2558
Pages
pp. 309-315
Launched on MUSE
2017-06-15
Open Access
No
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