Original program for 1992.
I first encountered the American Shakespeare Center in 1992 when it was known as the Shenandoah Shakespeare Express. I was a senior in high school in Hanover, New Hampshire, taking a Shakespeare class, when the tour came to my school for performances of The Merchant Of Venice and The Comedy of Errors, and I was completely blown away. I loved everything about it. I remember being genuinely surprised and amazed at how funny and rich and FUN the performances were, and began secretly harboring a desire to move to Virginia and join the troupe!
After school that afternoon, some friends and I ran into the actors at a local restaurant and I was able to interact with a few of them, talking with them about the performance and their life on tour. One of them even wrote me a note and I still have both it and the program from the performance to this day, 22 years later.
The performances I saw that day, as well as that Shakespeare class I took my senior year of high school, inspired a life-long love of Shakespeare and literature that moved me to major in Literature in college. More recently, I’ve gone back to school to obtain a teaching certificate so I can become a high school English teacher.
Though I’ve never been to the American Shakespeare Center, it’s history and heritage has been deeply impactful and inspirational in my life, and I am truly grateful for it’s legacy!
I hate to say it but I had always loathed having to read Shakespeare; it seemed so hard, boring, and too much work. I had seen the ASC perform a few years ago at my school, Murray State University, but only went because it was required for my Humanities class. It wasn’t until this semester, taking a required Shakespeare class, that I finally fell in love.
I’ve had an amazing professor who finally made it fun, which is key. Her enthusiasm is infectious and she presents it in a way that makes sense. It was no longer boring or hard to understand, it finally clicked and now I am hooked.
Again this semester, we were required to go to one performance of the ASC’s performances but I ended up going to all of them. There was something different this time for me. I was completely mesmerized by the actors, understood the language, and was pulled into the stories.
I can’t wait to visit Staunton and see the actors perform on their home stage!
- Tracy French
My best memories of ASC are sitting on that stage with all actors around me, pulling me more and more inside the stories they are telling. There is a magic sitting on that stage, seeing it all unravel in front of you. They are more than the best seats in the house, they are the ultimate teaching experience. I have seen comedies and tragedies sitting on those stools, and have felt every emotion, every fight, every joke, every song and somehow felt as if I was living my own dreams of being on stage.
Twenty-five years is a lifetime, and I am happy to say for the last ten years of my life I have been fortunate enough to have ASC as a part of my journey. Here is to another twenty five years of doing it with the lights on.
- Trisha Urvan
MBC MFA Student, Jessica Shiermeister
I first encountered the ASC during their 2008 tour. They came to Waldorf College in Forest City, IA and performed Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and I was lucky enough to hang around these actors after their performance.
Two years later, I came to Staunton to intern with the touring troupe. The first shows I saw in the Blackfriars Playhouse was The Taming of the Shrew and Othello. I greatly enjoyed the work that the ASC does and it was during my 2010 internship that I decided to pursue my MLitt/MFA in Shakespeare and Performance through Mary Baldwin College. I visited Staunton twice more before moving and fell in love with the town even more each time I visited.
This is a special place and it will always hold a special place in my heart.
- Jessica Shiermeister
When I was in first grade, I was reprimanded for disrupting class. I was more interested in making the girls at my table laugh than learning proper penmanship technique (to this day, my handwriting is hardly legible), so I was sequestered to sit at a special desk that was fashioned with blinders on all sides. This desk was very effective at removing any comedy routine from my teacher’s lesson plans, and equally effective at shaming the occupant. My parents were contacted, and I knew I was done for.
ASC Actor Colin Ryan with his Father.
Instead, my father took me on a walk around the school grounds, encouraged me to pay attention in class, and gave me an old brass keychain with a five cent stamp of Shakespeare’s likeness encased in clear plastic. I was puzzled, but this ShakesStory has more to do with my father being a great dude than my first grade teacher’s classroom management skills.
Throughout my childhood, my father often recited poetry and talked with me about the language. He took me line by line through Shakespeare, Whitman, Elliot and others, decoding the words and putting me in touch with deeper meaning. I tagged along to rehearsals while he directed Sophocles’ Antigone and Aristophanes’ The Birds in the high school gymnasium. I lead on blind Tiresias, and carved a flying pig out of Styrofoam. We built a Greek temple and pretended to be ghosts and fish in a Mark Twain story. When I was older, my first Shakespeare role was Corin in As You Like It, acting scenes with my older brother as Touchstone, in another of my father’s productions.
Some years have passed and I’m still treading the boards, my dad continues to influence young minds, and I still have that keychain.
- Colin Ryan