From left: Students Marisol Ramirez '18 and Devin Guilfoyle '18 work with ASC's Ally Farzetta during a costume workshop.

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow: 25 Years of Shakespeare

Deborah Dudley

This season’s American Shakespeare Center’s 2017-18 Wicked Folly Tour presented “The Taming of the Shrew,” “MacBeth,” and “Sense and Sensibility” in the Peterson-Kermani Performance Hall. For 25 consecutive years, the American Shakespeare Center (ASC) has made St. Lawrence University an annual destination for its traveling ensemble performances, workshops, and residency. 
“We have visited places for 10 or 15 years running, but 25 consecutive years” says Thomas J. Coppola, touring troupe manager and director of the ASC traveling shows, “that is really remarkable. It shows how St. Lawrence has a unique appreciation for what Shakespeare brings to a learning environment.”

The troupe’s four-day residency schedule this year, combined performances with student-centered workshops that explored all facets of Shakespearean theater in a contemporary context. The ASC artists worked with students in Visiting Assistant Professor Sara Schaff’s playwriting course to examine the staging clues embedded in the author’s texts and with Assistant Professor Ann Hubert’s Shakespeare class, delving into rhetoric and word play. The troupe also hosted open workshops examining the research, development, and construction that goes into costuming Shakespeare’s plays during the Elizabethan period as well as a session learning about the special effects for the Early Modern stage using basic tools with limited technology. 

“It’s so important for students to see all of us building these worlds together, operating in multi-faceted positions and taking on roles regardless of gender that challenge an audience’s perspective,” says Hilary Caldwell, one of the actors who plays numerous roles in each production. Caldwell points out that this is consistent with the demands in Shakespeare’s time when actors took on multiple roles in each production.

“There are still fans from over the border who travel down to see the productions each year,” says Coppola, who explains that in the past, their visit to the North Country included performances in Canada. The ASC has been touring since 1988 and was previously known as the Shenandoah Shakespeare Express before changing its name in 2001. 

Coppola believes that Shakespeare is meant to be heard and seen in order to be understood and enjoyed. With 25 years of immersion, it is clear that St. Lawrence University agrees.