2011 in Review

We’re wrapping up another year in ASC Education, and 2011 has been full of excitement and surprises.

  • Our biggest event of the year was the 6th Blackfriars Conference, held in late October. With over 150 presenters in both plenary and colloquy sessions; keynotes from George T. Wright, Scott Kaiser, Tiffany Stern, and honoree Stephen Booth; ASC productions and special late-night performances; banquets; parties; and after-parties, this year’s conference was a rousing success.
  • Our summer camps were more successful than ever. At the American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camp, six troupes across two sessions performed in an hour-long version of early modern plays (in a “Greek to me Summer”, the plays were all set in Greece); participated in master classes including stage combat, dance, music, acrobatics, and maskwork; attended academic classes in theatre history, scansion/rhetoric, classics, and source study; and visited the Blackfriars Playhouse to watch the professional Resident and Touring Troupe actors rehearse and perform in our summer season of plays. This was the first summer we offered college credit for the camp. Our Midsummer Day Camp welcomed students ages 9-12 for an adventurous week of creative play, imagination, and fantasy, culminating in a final performance of Twelfth Night. Enthusiasts of all ages came to Staunton for the second year of the No Kidding Shakespeare Camp for Adults. We’re already looking forward to the 2012 camps; applications and registrations are now open: ASCTC; MSDC; NKSC.
  • We introduced a new program in 2011: ASC Family. An ASC Family membership has many benefits, including discounted tickets, free Playhouse tours, and free admission to ASC Family events, where we bring the community into the Playhouse. In September, we welcomed musicians and artists; our next ASC Family event, “Taste of Staunton” is on January 21st and will feature local restaurateurs.
  • The ASC also hosted recitation competitions for Poetry Out Loud and the English Speaking Union. At the ESU Nationals in New York in May, Ralph Alan Cohen served as a judge, and the ASC awarded a full ASCTC scholarship to second-place winner Claire Hilton.
  • Our Study Guides, already improved in 2010, underwent another round of revisions. The new guides for Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Henry V, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado about Nothing, and Richard III feature an expanded Basics section, introducing teachers to methods of classroom performance and engagement with the text, including scansion, paraphrasing, acting interpretation, rhetoric, and audience interaction. I’m currently working on bringing the Basics from last year’s guides up to those standards, and then I’ll start work on the 2012-2013 guides.
  • Those Study Guides form the basis for our Teacher Seminars. This year, we added a fourth seminar, a special one-day event in August. Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, dozens of new attendees and old friends joined us to explore methods of performance-based learning. For the second year in a row, we’ve welcomed pre-service teachers from JMU to a mini-seminar in December, we look forward to seeing them return next year.
  • We welcomed 15 Little Academes to the Playhouse over the course of the year: 2 in February, 6 in March, 2 in April, 3 in May, 1 in August, and 1 in September. That’s up from 11 in 2010, and we hope that even more teachers will choose to bring their students to us for week-long intensives in 2012.
  • If the students can’t come to us, we’ll come to them! In October, we held our first On-Site Educational Residency in Shaker Heights, Ohio. I traveled with former ASC actors Kelley McKinnon and Chad Bradford for a week with the amazing young women of the Hathaway Brown School. We presented in both English and theatre classes, and Kelley and Chad provided rehearsal coaching for the school’s production of Macbeth.
  • Our educational opportunities aren’t just limited to students; this year, we expanded our professional training programs farther than ever. We continue our long relationship with the Federal Executive Institute, providing leadership seminars, and we’ve begun to develop programs focusing on law and finance as well.
  • Apart from bringing scholars to visit us during the Blackfriars Conference, we also attended a number of other conferences in 2011. We presented to teachers and students at the Texas Educational Theatre Association in January, and that month, representatives from the Education, Marketing, and Managing departments of the ASC attended the Shakespeare Theatre Association conference in Boulder, Colorado. In February, Sarah and I presented on Shakespeare as a Primary Source at the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies’s conference in Phoenix. And in April, Ralph traveled with ASC actors James Keegan, Rene Thornton Jr., and John Harrell to the Shakespeare Association of American conference in Seattle, where Ralph presented on Falstaff and our actors presented at a workshop on Playing Shakespeare. 2012 is shaping up to be just as full of travel for the whole team, with visits planned to Sacramento, Orlando, and Boston.
  • We’re also expanding our relationships with friends across the world. Sarah and I visited the Folger Shakespeare Library in May to discuss how both companies are expanding our online resources for students and teachers. Ryan Nelson from Shakespeare’s Globe visited us to present for the MBC MLitt/MFA program and to talk about digital opportunities for education, and the conference in October further expanded that relationship with a presentation given by new Globe Managing Director Neil Constable, and Director of Research Farah Karim-Cooper on their upcoming Indoor Theatre.
  • We moved the bulk of our archives to Washington and Lee University, where our materials can enjoy greater storage space and management than our facilities could offer (So for anyone who’s visited our archives in the past, that means no more cramming yourselves into that tiny, overstuffed closet). We retain the last five years’ worth of material in the offices, but we shipped everything about shows from 1987 to 2005 down to Lexington; more sections (from Education, Marketing, Development, the Board of Trustees, and on the building of the Blackfriars) will go down in Summer 2012.
  • The MBC MLitt/MFA Shakespeare in Performance program also had a full year: an all-male production of Romeo and Juliet, dueling versions of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, a spring thesis festival, and many other events and productions.
  • We also work with the MBC Program for the Exceptionally Gifted and Honors program each fall semester. This year’s focus word was “wisdom”, and the students explored variations of that word’s meaning through scenes from As You Like It.
  • We partnered with the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind to bring workshops to their students, as well as arranging two sign-language interpreted nights of Macbeth in April — one matinee, for their students, and one evening performance open to the public, thanks to the generosity of the interpreters, Kate O’Varanese and Laurie Shaffer, from UVA who gave us the gift of their services at no cost.
  • We said goodbye to Christina Sayer Grey and welcomed Ben Ratkowski to the team. Christina didn’t leave the ASC, but shuffled over into Marketing; if you follow the ASC on Facebook or Twitter, she’s responsible for most of that content now, as well as numerous contributions to our other promotional materials. Ben took over her job as Group Sales and Academic Relations Manager, in addition to his responsibilities as ASC Family Coordinator.
  • Education Interns always provide a bitter-sweet Hello and Goodbye. Good-bye to Natalie and Liz and David. Hello to Jane, Kyle, Brenna, Kimberly, Jennifer, Angelinne, and John. We’re so grateful for the time each of you can spend with us, and we wish you all the luck in 2012 and beyond.

You can see photos from these events on the ASC Facebook page. If you joined us in 2011, take a flip through and reawaken some memories. If you didn’t make it to Staunton, then hopefully the pictures will inspire you to join us in 2012!

So what’s ahead for ASC Education in 2012? More access to more people. We hope to reach more students and educators than ever — that means more classes coming to matinees, more young adults at ASCTC, more pre-teens at Midsummer Day Camp, more grown folks at No Kidding Shakespeare Camp, more attendees at our Teacher Seminars, more educators downloading Study Guides, more groups coming in for leadership seminars and other professional training opportunities, more podcasts featuring our actors and education artists — more of you getting to do more with us.

I hope everyone has had a lovely and safe holiday season, and that we’ll be seeing you in the coming months. The Actors’ Renaissance Season ramps up in just a few days, providing a wonderful opportunity to witness firsthand the marriage of research and scholarship with theatrical practice — so come see us soon!