To me, the ASC will always be the Shenandoah Shakespeare Express. My first experience with the SSE (if you’ll forgive the outdated terminology) was Fall 1993. I was a JMU student and my roommate had been to a play on campus. When she came back to our room, she was so excited that she told me all about it. It sounded so fun that my sister and I went the next night. It was A Midsummer Night’s Dream and we had a seat right in the middle on the 2nd row. At one point, during one of the scenes where they are rehearsing the “play” out in the woods (I think it was when they were discussing the writing of the prologue to explain that the lion was not a real lion), my sister lost it. She was laughing so hard she almost fell out of her seat. The actors paused, let her get her breath, then went on. We were hooked, and for the next several years, we did not miss a show.
I moved away, but when I came back to visit, I always tried to catch at least one show a year. When I moved back, the Blackfriars was new and we were thrilled to come and see as many shows as we could. I taught at a small school and for several years, brought the high-school students once a year to see a show. The first time, they were NOT thrilled at the prospect. They had planned on hating it (“She’s going to make us watch Shakespeare? YUCK!”), but seeing The Taming of the Shrew won over almost all of them! In subsequent years, there was no grumbling when it was time to go to Staunton and see a play.
Over the last 20 years, this theater company has given me many hours of entertainment, encouraged many discussions and let me introduce many other people to the fun of Shakespeare.
I will continue to be a fan and will also let you know that if you need any copies of the old mid-1990’s SSE newsletter (or programs or ticket stubs from Thomas Harrison Middle School) for your archives, I could probably come up with at least a few — ok, ok, it is quite possible that I have them all!
– Missy Grubbs