Promotional photo for American Shakespeare Center’s 2020 season. Photo courtesy of American Shakespeare Center.
By Dakota Collins
As part of its annual residency at Sewanee, the American Shakespeare Center is to return in early February to perform Shakespeare’s popular classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as the more rarely-produced Cymbeline, which ASC has re-titled Imogen. These performances are made possible through Sewanee’s privilege as one of two charter members (the other being Washington and Lee University) of ASC’s Leadership Consortium, a partnership with ASC to provide students and faculty with opportunities to engage with Shakespeare and his work.
The American Shakespeare Center was co-founded by Jim Warren and Ralph Alan Cohen, and Ethan McSweeny now serves as the Artistic Director. In addition to his work with the American Shakespeare Center, Warren worked with the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, who are close to Sewanee in both proximity and involvement. In Advent 2019, the festival brought their touring production of a 90-minute Romeo and Juliet, to Sewanee’s Tennessee Williams Center.
Last year, the ASC accepted two summer interns from Sewanee, Jose Hernandez (C’21) and Kate Graham (C’20), who got to work hands-on with the company at their Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia. The Blackfriars Playhouse, built in 2001, is named for and a reproduction of Shakespeare’s historic Blackfriars theatre in London, Shakespeare’s only indoor theatre which burned down in the 1666 Great Fire of London. Hernandez and Graham spent their summer in residence at the ASC’s Blackfriars Playhouse, working directly with the cast and production crew of ASC’s 2019 season.
“Over my nine weeks [working at the ASC], I never talked to or met a single person working with the company that I didn’t immediately like,” said Graham. “My experience with the company was wonderful, once I got to Staunton: a nice room in a nice house, cool housemates, and a neat city to explore.”
As an English major with minors in Shakespeare studies and theatre, Graham added that she feels her experiences working with the ASC allowed her to grow “not only as a human being, but in a professional capacity as well.”
For students interested in learning more about the ASC, the work they do, and how one might get involved, ASC will be in Sewanee February 6-8 for their performances, which will take place in Guerry Auditorium. For more information, one can reach out to Professor Jennifer Matthews, chair of the Theatre Department.
Edit: This article has been updated to show that Ethan McSweeny is the current Artistic Director of the American Shakespeare Center.