“How I have been transformed”

I first came to Staunton to try the ASC’s summer camp, at the time called YCTC, purely out of curiosity… I had done a bit of film and voice acting before, and I had read/enjoyed Hamlet in my British Literature class, but YCTC introduced me to the world of PERFORMING Shakespeare and brought the magic of theatre to me like I had never seen it before… needless to say, my life would never be the same.

The friends, connections and experiences I gained under the tutelage of the ASC’s amazing crew of actors and academics were invaluable, and I loved the experience so much that, when I heard Stuart Hall (the building YCTC was held in that year) had a Shakespearean acting program in cooperation with the Blackfriars Playhouse, I ended up moving from my home in VA Beach all the way to Staunton just to go there.

In my time there I played Richard III, Oberon, and even some parts in an MFA production of Timon of Athens; and the summer after I graduated I had the opportunity to play Charles IX in a production of A Massacre in Paris at the Blackfriars Playhouse for the American Marlowe Society’s annual conference, a once in a lifetime experience I cherish to this day.

The friends and memories I’ve made through Shakespeare are the best I’ve ever had, and getting to bring these amazing stories to life for a modern audience, on the Blackfriars Playhouse stage no less, was a dream come true for me. As a dedicated ASC audience member, it would always make my day when the actors from the ASC would come to support our productions, as well!

My time in Staunton has transformed me in every way, and it’s all been because of the ASC. The Shakespearean scholars and enthusiasts I’ve had the amazing privilege of working with here at such a young age have given me an entirely different outlook on my craft and on my life. The feeling of taking on a myriad of pages that to many are just a bunch of fancy words, becoming the historical heroes and devils on those pages, and turning the whole thing into a moving breathing performance that makes people who have never understood Shakespeare say they loved it and understood every word… that’s one of the best feelings in the world, and I can think of nothing more exhilarating to do for the rest of my life.

I’ve gone from wandering aimlessly to knowing I want a career doing Renaissance theatre, and my experiences here have given me the confidence and knowledge to tackle that goal head-on. I’m currently pursuing a degree in Pre-Professional Acting at Emory and Henry College, and it makes my day whenever I see someone walk by me on campus wearing an ASC shirt.

I only hope that when I graduate I can get a job living in the Bard’s world again, and that someday I can have the amazing honor of bringing the magic of Shakespeare to a new generation of actors and dreamers in the life changing way the ASC did for me. Thanks to everyone involved with the ASC for all you’ve done and continue to do in my life!

– Rob Cantrell

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