My first experience with the American Shakespeare Center was a school matinee when the name Shenandoah Shakespeare Express was still used. My motivation to go was mainly derived from the words “field trip,” but it also came from a fascination with theater that had taken hold years ago. I could not have grasped the fact that as I signed up for this outing I was, in a sense, signing up for the first major steps of my career a decade down the road.
The experience with the SSE’s staging left an immediate impact on me. Theater is about connecting with people and telling our stories, right? So why not remove that barrier they call a “fourth wall” that someone decided to put up? The last thing I want between me and human art is a wall. Then I learned that Jim and Ralph hadn’t just thought this idea up; it is hundred of years old, and is so powerful that it transcends each permutation of popular culture because it speaks a universal language.
I attended more matinees and ended up attending Young Company Theater Camp (now ASCTC) in mid-high school. Working under one of the actors at the time, Paul Fidalgo, convinced me that theater was where I wanted to be for a long time. More training followed through productions and classes in high school and college. I performed and learned in a variety of styles and genres but somehow each time I performed Shakespeare I had the audience on three sides, took lines to them, and sang with the other actors before the show. I couldn’t escape it.
The two years after I graduated college I chased any glimpse of a career in Arts Management. After being turned down for two full time jobs at the ASC (as well as countless jobs in other places), I moved to Staunton to work part-time in their box office. Six months and another missed job later, I was called into an office and offered a job I hadn’t applied for… not with my words, at least.
Shakespeare’s words are part of it. The Blackfriars Playhouse is a part of it. The actors, the staff, the Board, Staunton, the Blue Ridge, the Valley, and anyone who has ever seen us perform are all part of it. The company and I both turn 25 this December and there is so much future ahead.
Pack the Playhouse full with us. Spread the word about our Touring Troupe with us. Build the Globe II with us. Set aside some time to see shows in the year 2038; I hear our 50th Anniversary is going to be a great one.
– Zach Armstrong, ASC Business Assistant