My love of theatre began with a community production of Cinderella in which I played “townschild” and had one line: “Mazie!?” This was to be said with attitude, which my four-year-old self had no problem doing. From then on, I was a theatre junkie, performing in a play almost every year until I graduated high school. Though I had been introduced to Shakespeare in junior high, it wasn’t until college that I really saw the beauty in the language and the genius in the writing. My voice and speech professor had a history performing Shakespeare, and instilled in us the wonder and appreciation for iambic pentameter, subtlety, and multiple meanings. He made us realize that Shakespeare would choose a word, consciously, for a reason, and the depth to which his writing could be studied seemed endless. With this study, performing Shakespeare became both complex and simple. By diving deep into the text, the meaning and story floated easily to the surface for both performer and audience.
Shortly after my love for Shakespeare flourished, I had the opportunity to spend a summer abroad, studying theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and London. It was a great experience and a turning point for me. I saw some amazing theatre, ate way too many Cadbury Flakes, wrote some mostly terrible poetry on the banks of the Thames and took artistic photos of gravestones at Trinity Church. I loved Stratford. It was like this Shakespeare oasis; a small village, with incredible art, history and character. I remember lamenting; wishing a place like this existed in America, because I would want to live there. Forever.
Fifteen years later, I found myself in Vermont, staring out at snow falling on Easter morning in late April. I had switched my theatrical focus from performing to administration, and had spent the last ten years bouncing around from New York to North Carolina to Atlanta to Vermont. I really enjoyed working as the Director of Marketing for a theatre company there, but wasn’t sure this North Carolina girl could handle another New England winter. I wanted to be closer to family, and to find a place to settle, especially now that I had a husband and a baby boy.
One afternoon, my husband mentioned he had found a potential job for me in Virginia – Director of Marketing and Sales at the ASC. He began reading the list of staff at to see if I knew anyone. I sent my job application, and, after a pretty strenuous interview process, the company decided to fly me down for an in-person interview.
It’s probably not often that a person studies a company so ardently (looking at ticket sales trends, audience demographics, and making marketing recommendations) BEFORE she watches a production, but that’s what I did. It had been a day of interviews, and discussions, and intense concentration, and I was very much in my head when I walked to the Blackfriars Playhouse. The moment I stepped into the theatre, the vibrancy of the music blasted it all away.
I saw Measure for Measure (my favorite Shakespeare play) and was reminded of the spark that ignited my passion for theatre at four years old. It’s FUN. And this was Shakespeare at its absolute best. It was clear, and funny, easy and it just worked. I remember thinking, “I’ve never seen a play or performance feel so right in a theatre, in this setting. It’s as if it was written for the space.” (Then, I mentally rolled my eyes at myself because, of course, it was.) Later, I recapped the day to my husband with glee and amazement that anything could be so perfect – the job, the people, the adorable city that was both a small town and culture hub. It was incredible theatre, in an incredible town. That secret wish I wished in Stratford in 1997 was coming true. I finally felt like I had found a home, professionally and personally.
Few people are able to find careers or jobs that touch both their brain and heart. I’m lucky that I have that. It’s easy to work hard when you believe in what you’re doing. I like to think that the ASC touches people in the myriad of ways that I was affected by theatre in my life. For some, maybe attending a show at the American Shakespeare Center is simply a good time, great entertainment and the reminder or realization that theatre and Shakespeare are FUN. Maybe for some, Staunton and the ASC create a magical experience.
Who knows, maybe there’s a young woman attending the show tonight, spending her days eating split banana, writing poetry, and taking pictures in Thornrose Cemetery – dreaming about her future, hoping that one day, she can call this place home.
– Cathy Bagwell Marsh, ASC Director of Marketing and Sales