Jim loves a William Shakespeare play and we have been hearing for years about the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia. Now that we are only two hours away, we decided to check it out.

Staunton is just north of us, and we had a beautiful trip through the woods. Jim made arrangements for us to see a matinee performance of The Merry Wives of Windsor, which allowed us a leisurely Saturday morning before heading up to see the show.

The American Shakespeare Center has been around since 1988, according to its website, and in 2001 it settled into its current theater, the world’s only recreation of Shakespeare’s Blackfriar’s Playhouse. It is beautiful!

“Sit on the stage if you can,” suggested my friend Colleen when I told her we were going. And indeed, there are ten stools lining the sides of the stage, but at our show, they were taken up by high school students (whose clear enjoyment of the show added to the general merriment of the afternoon).

Because it was amazingly fun. I have never seen a Shakespeare production where:

  • The bar selling beer and wine at the beginning of the show (and during intermission) is on the stage itself.
  • The cast begins the performance with some musical numbers: a bluegrass-sounding tune, followed by renditions of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing,” a raucous “She’s a Bad Mama Jama,” and, at intermission, J. Geils Band’s “Love Stinks.” If you haven’t seen The Merry Wives, trust me that these selections are all on point.
  • They leave the lights in the house up so the actors can see and interact with the audience.
  • The lady sitting next to you wears a “cold shoulder” top to show off her tattoo of the bard himself on her shoulder.
Just like this one I got from Wikipedia.

It was a veritable festival of Shakespeare that made me understand how people can be superfans. I was inspired to include his work into more of my reading rotation, and we will definitely be making that trip again.

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