Earnestly gracing the stage

American Shakespeare Center to perform at Sullivan Center


Photo by submitted photo

Staff photo by Evan LewisTexas High junior Madison Sutton and other members of the TISD Drama program learn basic techniques in stage combat Tuesday February 23, 2016 during a workshop put on by the American Shakespeare Center Troupe at the John Thomas Theatre. ASC is in Texarkana to perform “The Importance of Being Earnest” today at the Sullivan Performing Arts Center show time is 7:00 p.m.

Story by Katherine Stoeckl, staff writer

The actors can see the audience and the set is bare. Contemporary music is blended with Shakespeare’s text to connect with the modern audiences.

The American Shakespeare Center performed the  Oscar Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest as a part of their 2015/16 Dangerous Dreams Tour at the Sullivan Performing Arts Center on February 24 and the show was a phenomenal delight.

The American Shakespeare Center has been touring the world for over 25 years, and their goal is to recover the joys and accessibility of Shakespeare’s theater, language, and humanity by exploring the English Renaissance stage and its practices through performance and education.

The ASC aims to recreate the atmosphere of an Elizabethan play.  

Their sets employ universal lighting; meaning, that the actors can see the audience so the actors can engage and interact with the playgoers.

Some traveling ASC groups have no more than 15 actors in their troupe. However, Shakespeare’s Macbeth has over 40 parts and doubling becomes necessary. That means a single actor may have as many as seven roles in a single play.

Additionally, female actresses did not grace the stage until after the Restoration in 1660. Shakespeare enjoyed the convention that young boys and men always played female characters as shown in As You Like It from 1600 where a boy would have played Rosalind, who disguises herself as a boy, then pretends to be a woman. The ASC does try to recreate so of the fun gender confusions by casting women as man and men as women.

Although the original duration of some of Shakespeare’s play is unknown, the chorus in Romeo and Juliet promises “two hours of stage traffic.” The ASC tries to stay true to this time constraint by brisking through pacing with a continuous flow of dramatic action sometimes even forgoing an intermission.  

Presently, costuming helps aid the audience in their understanding of the play by showing who is rich and who is poor and they also enabled an actor to portray multiple roles. Contrarily, costumes were not important during Shakespeare’s time because during his time, Julius Caesar was performed in Elizabethan (not ancient Roman) garb.

In Shakespeare’s time, his plays had a soundtrack. Musicians would play above the stage before, during, and after the plays. Unfortunately, not much of the music survives so the ASC sets many the songs in contemporary style so that the audience can more easily relate.