Last weekend, I went to Staunton, VA for a day to see two plays, Hamlet and Richard II, at the American Shakespeare Center. Staunton is small town outside of Charlottesville, and is about 2 hours from my university. We left at about 8:30 am so we could get there in time to explore the town before the matinee.
First, we got Starbucks, because that’s obviously an essential before any road trip. If you’re nosy, like me, and want to know my order, it’s a Trenta Black Tea Lemonade with 2 pumps of sweetener. Then the 2 hour car-ride basically just consisted of lots of singing at the top of my lungs to multiple musicals including, but not limited to, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and The Last Five Years. I would like to thank the theatre department at my university for corrupting my music taste.
It couldn’t have been a better day to explore a new town because it was actually kind of warm for the first time in months, and I was finally able to wear my new Kiel James Patrick dress that I got for Christmas. There is a plethora of cool antique stores, book stores, cafe’s, etc. First, we went to Shakespeare’s Gifts, a souvenir store, which fulfilled all of my theatre-loving needs. I got a cute postcard to hang up in my room that says, “Be not afraid of greatness”. We then just aimlessly wandered around the stores until we stumbled upon an incredible guy named Nick DiSanto performing on the street. I’ll link his website below, because his music was absolutely incredible. He is a one man band who travels the country, and even the world, with his instruments.
After wandering for a while, it was finally time to see Hamlet. Hamlet is my favorite Shakespearean play of all time after studying it in high school. This particular production was very interesting to see because it is part of the American Shakespeare Center’s Actor’s Renaissance Season. This basically means that the actor’s must produce the show in the same conditions that Shakespeare would have. They are given their scripts with only two weeks to learn lines, and are only given their line and the few lines before it- not the whole play. There are no lighting designers, just actors lit by chandeliers. There are no sound effects, just actors making noise with instruments or their mouths.
There also isn’t a director or someone to decide what gets to stay in production, since it’s 4 hours and they’re limited to 2.5 hours. Because of this, and because of the fact this season is mainly for die-hard Shakespeare fans, the cast collaboratively decided to put scenes in that don’t usually get as much love or aren’t as important. If you’ve never seen Hamlet or aren’t well-versed in the play, I’d say maybe this isn’t the ideal production for you. However, if you love Hamlet like I do, it’s nice to see a production showcasing different things.
After Hamlet, we decided to grab dinner before Richard II. We went to a Mexican restaurant in downtown Staunton, and I was a little underwhelmed, but that’s okay because it gave us the fuel we needed to get through our long night and that’s all that matters! After dinner, we had time to kill, and saw that a pizza place down the street had Nick DiSanto, who I mentioned earlier, playing there. We stopped in and watched him perform and grabbed some dessert.
Finally, it was time for Richard II! I’ll be honest, I was not familiar with this play at all when going to see it, I had just read the summary given to me on the program. It was a little hard to keep up with, but I still enjoyed it a lot. A woman played Richard II, the male lead, so woo girl power! Another cool thing the happened during that performance was that it completed American Shakespeare Center’s actor, Chris Johnston’s, Shakespeare Canon. What an incredible achievement to witness.
We got to sit right on stage which was absolutely incredible, and I would have loved to do that for Hamlet. I loved these productions so much that I begged Patrick, who I went with, to please take me there again to see Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in a month or so. He happily agreed, yay! I was blown away by the theatre and actors and can’t wait to see more productions there.
After Richard II, we got ice cream with our friend and her boyfriend, and enjoyed just relaxing after a long non-stop day. This was at about 10:30, and we didn’t leave until about 11ish. We till had a two hour car ride so we didn’t get home until a little after 1 am, which was exhausting but well-worth all of the exciting things we did. Definitely check out the American Shakespeare Center if you’re in the area and thanks for reading!
American Shakespeare Center: https://americanshakespearecenter.com
Nick DiSanto: http://www.nickdisanto.com
What I’m Wearing:
Bow: Old American Apparel, no longer available.