Shakespeare in the Shenandoah
Head to Staunton, Virginia for authentic Elizabethan-style theater.
In Shakespeare’s day, the program explains, small casts meant that actors took on multiple roles. Although Blackfriars doesn’t re-create the Elizabethan custom of having all of the female roles played by men (real women didn’t routinely appear on the English stage until 50 years after Shakespeare’s death), the theater does try to capture the same spirit by sometimes casting women as men, and vice versa.
By the end of the performance, Caesar is buried, Marc Antony has triumphed on the battlefield, the actors have taken their bows and I’m eager to see what kind of fun this cast might have with a comedy. Happily, Blackfriars makes that kind of binge watching possible by staging an average of four to six plays during each repertory season. On many weekends, you can catch three different plays over two days. With four seasons per year, Blackfriars will mount 15 different productions in 2017, including Shakespeare, other classics and the modern comedy Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet).
If you’re filling a weekend with multiple shows, you’ll find plenty to do between curtain calls in Staunton (which, incidentally, is pronounced “Stanton”), a friendly town in the Shenandoah Valley. The Blackfriars Playhouse sits at one end of a walkable downtown that’s chockablock with restaurants and shops, including many selling vintage wares and home goods.
Staunton itself is known for its architecture, and with more than a thousand historic buildings, makes an outstanding place to just stroll around and admire the stately homes. President Woodrow Wilson was born in one a few blocks from the theater. His home and presidential library make an inviting stop for history lovers.