It’s not just any town – it’s OUR TOWN.

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Constance Swain plays Emily Webb in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town (above photos by Lindsey Walters and Michael Bailey), one of our four Spring Season shows.  See what she has to say about pairing this classic play with Shakespeare and Shakespeare’s Staging Conditions.

You play Emily in Our Town.  How does Thornton Wilder’s classic play compare to the Shakespeare titles you’re doing this season? How is it different?

You said it right, Our Town is a classic, an American treasure.  This play works wonderfully with both Romeo and Juliet and The Two Gentlemen of Verona.  These plays are chock full of lessons we’ve either learned, need to learn, or need to be reminded of.  Lessons like the power of forgiveness, the beauty of friendship, and the importance of a hearty laugh.

While Our Town shares several characteristics with these Shakespeare titles, there’s something special about its simplicity.  This play doesn’t have period dances or fancy sword fights.  There’s something familiar about the straightforwardness of Our Town.  If Shakespeare’s plays are desserts, Our Town is the meat and potatoes.

What is your favorite line/lines in the play? Why?

EMILY:  Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?
STAGE MANAGER:  No.  Saints and poets, maybe they do some .  .  .

Being an actor is a lot like being a poet, it is my hope that I realize and inspire others to realize life while they live it.  Every.  Every.  Minute.

Do you have a favorite audience moment from either your time on the road or at the Blackfriars?

There are so many beautiful moments we share with the audience in this play.  We’re on a journey, a mission, to spark the imagination of our audience.  Our Town, in particular, calls for the audience to stretch their imagination.  We encourage them to give themselves over to Grovers Corners, to take this ride with us, feeling every loop and twist along the way.

I love watching the audience turn their heads or sit up to see the house on the hill, or Mr.  Morgan’s drug store, or the graves of fallen soldiers.  The stage manager simply points to these “places” and the audience, both young and old, turn to get a better view.  None of these places are tangible, we can’t go up and touch them.  The audience knows this.  It’s no secret.  This is a play.  But they still believe in magic.  For an evening they abandon all logic and play.

How does Our Town fit into the current cultural moment?  What do you think audiences might walk away with watching this play in 2017?  

This play is a classic because it is timeless.  No matter if the year is 2017 or 3017, this play will be relevant.  Human beings will live, and eat, and love, and die.  This play is a reminder to breathe in those moments.  Hopefully, after seeing this play, audiences hug their loved ones a little tighter before bed.

Does performing Our Town with Shakespeare’s Staging Conditions impact the way audiences respond to the play?

Absolutely! This play is captivating on its own; adding Shakespeare’s Staging Conditions only enhances its charm.  Our staging conditions (keeping the lights on, directly addressing the audience) remind people that they matter, that they are just as important to this story as any of us.

Hungry Hearts Homecoming

The Hungry Hearts tour is back in the Playhouse, bringing Romeo and JulietThe Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Our Town back to the Blackfriars stage and adding the time-traveling adventure Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)They’ve been on the road since September, with a respite back home for the Holiday Season.

Here are some of the highlights of this year’s tour:

  • The Hungry Hearts tour visited 47 cities in 19 states, reaching over 25,000 people.
  • In those 47 cities, the tour performed 75 shows, conducted 69 workshops, and held 15 talkbacks.
  • In 2016-2017, the tour had more two-show days than ever!
  • We had five new venues and 38 repeat venues, and this was our third year in a row with 70+ shows.
  • Smallest town Hungry Hearts performed in: Clarksville, Texas, population 3100
  • Largest city Hungry Hearts performed in: New York City, population 8 million
  • The largest house the troupe performed for was at the University of Buffalo, with an audience of 1400 high school students.
  • The Hungry Hearts truck, fully loaded, weighed 21,000 pounds.
  • That truck traveled 18,000 miles (and suffered only one breakdown).
  • The troupe did 262 loads of laundry.
  • 17 Crabs had their moment in the spotlight! You can catch up on their adventures on Twitter: @ASC_Crab.

Catch Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Our Town, and Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) at the Blackfriars Playhouse, now through June 11th.

Summer/Fall 15 Playhouse Insider: Now on Sale!

I’m pleased to announce that the Summer/Fall 2015 issue of the Playhouse Insider is now on-sale in the Box Office! Here’s a sneak peek at what’s inside:SF15Cover

Artists:

I’m delighted to have an article from Kate Powers, the last person to direct A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the ASC, back in 2011. While Midsummer is always a crowd favorite, Powers initially felt some hesitance to tackle the project – but rehearsing the show helped her find the same love we at the ASC hope you’ll feel for this year’s production.

In Matt Davies’s piece, you’ll hear from an ex-Antony in his own words. Davies played the role for the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, under the direction of our very own Ralph Cohen. While Cleopatra often receives more attention as a famously challenging role, Antony comes with his own set of expectations and imaginings, and Davies will lead you through his exploration of them.

Finally, as our current tour prepares to embark on the first phase of their journey in September, I thought you would enjoy a look at what life on the road is like – and what it means to come home to the Playhouse. Patrick Poole and Lexi Braverman of last year’s Method in Madness tour share their experiences in an interview with Education Artist Lia Razak Wallace.

Scholars

Our first scholarly article illustrates that, at the Blackfriars Playhouse, research and practice are always deeply intertwined. Amy Grubbs shares her observances from working on The Winter’s Tale as a member of Mary Baldwin College’s 2014-2015 MFA Company, Turning Glass Shakespeare.

I’m tremendously excited to offer an article from Michael Poston, a friend from the Folger Shakespeare Library. As technology continues to advance, editors across the world are engaging with new ways to present Shakespeare’s texts. Poston uses some examples from 1 Henry VI to illustrate the challenges of tagging a Shakespeare play for digital mark-up, and the result is a fascinating look at the underpinnings of early modern texts in the modern age.

With the 8th Blackfriars Conference coming up in October, we decided to showcase some thoughts based on a paper from a previous conference. Matt Kozusko’s article on humor in Hamlet is precisely the blend of sharp, amusing, and insight that we prize in the presentations at each biennial gathering, the topic Matt chose also offers a great transition from our Spring to Summer season..

Audience

We’ve just wrapped the 2015 No Kidding Shakespeare Camp, and in 2016, we’ll be taking the team abroad again. Find out what traveling to London to study Shakespeare is like from 2013 camper Lia Janosz – and learn why she considers Dr. Ralph the Indiana Jones of early modern theatre.

Finally, teacher Katrien Vance shares her experience – and those enjoyed by her students – in bringing ASC Education to her school for an exploration of Macbeth and Shakespeare’s Staging Conditions. From special effects to the nuances of rhetoric, her class dove into the work with great enthusiasm – and the pictures from their stage blood workshop are not to be missed!

If you’re interested in contributing to a future issue, please send me an email with your proposal: cass@americanshakespearecenter.com.

–Cass Morris, Academic Resources Manager

Podcast Archive: 2014

2014 Actors’ Renaissance Season

2014 Spring Season

2014 Summer and Fall Seasons

Podcast Archives: 2013

2013 Spring Season

2013 Summer and Fall Seasons