In 2001, Shenandoah Shakespeare performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream at my middle school. The production displayed the synergy of what I was learning to discover about Shakespeare’s text in class and what I longed to see on stage – pure, not-from-concentrate Shakespeare that invited the audience into a theatre of imagination. Shortly thereafter, the Blackfriars Playhouse opened to the public, and I signed up to be a volunteer usher.
My parents enrolled me in the ASC Theatre Camp, then in its 5th summer, after they witnessed my growing admiration for the company that was transforming our hometown into a cultural haven for Shakespeare-lovers. The shows that summer are forever etched into my memory, and my friendships made at camp continue to thrive.
These are the youths that thunder at a playhouse. – Henry VIII, V,iv.
My camp experience set me on a trajectory that would continue to shape my life and professional experiences through the next decade. I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre from Hunter College in NYC. Like most New Yorkers, I split myself into three so that I could be uptown, downtown, and midtown all at the same time. I managed our only undergrad theatre organization, worked for an off-beat theatre space in the East Village, and interned with a fundraising company on the West Side while temping for corporate offices to pay the bills. Bright lights – Broadway – and even my own film screening at the Lincoln Center still didn’t satisfy my inner Shakespeare scholar.
I decided to return to my roots. I enrolled in the Master of Letters graduate program in Shakespeare and Performance at Mary Baldwin College. By this time, I had seen well over 40 productions by the American Shakespeare Center. More than any tiny apartment that I shared in the city, Blackfriars Playhouse felt like home.
That is my home of love: if I have ranged, Like him that travels I return again. -Sonnet CIX
I threw myself into the throngs of Shakespeare studies; I was giddy with delight to dig to the depths of familiar plays and to discover plays not yet performed in our lifetime. During my time at Mary Baldwin College, I became a graduate assistant and liaison to ASC, booking student rehearsals and events at Blackfriars Playhouse. I served as a coordinator for the Blackfriars Conference and had already worked as a counselor and assistant director for the ASC Theatre Camp that I attended years before.
In 2012, I stage-managed the Actors’ Renaissance Season while completing my thesis, planning my wedding, and navigating US immigration law to bring my fiancé from the UK in time for our nuptials. I was also blessed to be close to home while my mother faced multiple radiation treatments for cancer. I can’t remember the last time I saw my mom laugh so much as she did when I brought my parents to see Return to the Forbidden Planet this summer. Laughter heals, they say.
With mirth and laughter, let old wrinkles come – The Merchant of Venice, I,i.
Through it all, my family at the American Shakespeare Center kept me grounded, and the performances – bringing me laughter, comfort, and moments of reflection – continue to fill my heart and soul with joy. Now in my position as Director of College Prep Programs, I am delighted to bring my experience as a student, performer, scholar, and arts administrator back to the company that inspired me to follow my dreams so many years ago. The ASC continues to motivate young artists; the ASC Theatre Camp will celebrate its 17th summer in 2014, and our Education Residency program brings ASC artists to schools across the nation. I couldn’t be more happy to still be part of this vibrant and thriving community.
Thank you, ASC!
– Kim Newton, ASC Director of College Prepatory Programs