Almost Heaven, McLean, Virginia

April 7, 2012 at 7:35 pm (Live Performances, Shakespeare's Plays, The Winter's Tale) (, , , , )

There are things about McLean that might not be heavenly… like congestion around Tysons Corner and the never-ending construction on the Beltway. But, today McLean was gorgeous. Spring is springing in full, flowers and bright green everywhere on a sparkly, clear day, and the American Shakespeare Center wrapped up its Almost Blasphemy Tour at the Alden Theatre in McLean.

It was a little nostalgic for me, as almost 25 years ago, when I first moved to the Washington DC area, I lived in the basement of a friend’s parents’ house in McLean and I cocktail waitressed at a lounge around the block from the Alden. McLean has changed a bit from those days and now the Alden is nestled into a lovely neighborhood of big, beautiful homes.

The America Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia, is amazing — performing with original staging practices in a replica of Shakespeare’s Blackfriars Playhouse recreated in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I had the pleasure of seeing All’s Well That Ends Well performed at Blackfriars’ a couple years ago. It’s on my shortlist of places to return to, but Staunton is about 3 hours from my house, and the logistics have not worked out. McLean, depending on traffic (which didn’t exist today) is less than a half hour.

So, I was excited that the stars aligned and I had a free Saturday afternoon to join other members of the DC-area Shakespeare Explorers Meetup group and see the ASC perform The Winter’s Tale for a matinée at the Alden.

Eugene Douglas as Leontes in The Winter's Tale. Photo by Tommy Thompson.

Although the Alden is not the same experience as the incredible Blackfriars, it is a very nice and intimate venue. The ASC set the stage simply, with little in the way of set other than a curtained backdrop. Like in Staunton, they have a fun pre-show with the actors playing music and selling raffle tickets for swag (they do the same at intermission). The songs are acoustic and very enjoyable renditions of classic rock and pop songs. I heard some Joni Mitchell, Righteous Brothers, and even some Guns N’ Roses. Some (maybe all?) of the songs went with the storyline… “Sweet Child of Mine” and “Bring Back that Lovin’ Feeling” definitely apply to The Winter’s Tale!

The theater was (unfortunately) not filled, and the actors encouraged audience members to move closer to the stage and to fill the seats onstage. As at Blackfriars, seats for a few brave audience members are set right on the stage and these folks became active (sometimes very hilarious) members of the show. One particularly funny interaction was when a minstrel came out playing and set his hat out for tips. One audience member tossed a few coins in. The musician nudged the hat down to the next guy. Instead of putting money in the hat, he reached in and took out the change! More hilarity ensued. Very funny.

I’m not a stage-sitter. I like to sit back and watch, and it was a great show. Even though I ordered tickets yesterday, I had seats in the third row and a great view. The ASC touring actors are wonderful and the show was really enjoyable. The current tour ends tonight with A Midsummer Night’s Dream in McLean, but I will be sure to keep my eye out for next season. If you can’t make it out to Staunton, you should try to catch the ASC on tour next year, too!

Stephanie Holladay Earl as Hermione in The Winter's Tale. Photo by Tommy Thompson.

A teaser, because I am so excited: My next post involves my visit yesterday with the Shakespearean Holy Grail. Yes, I had a very close encounter with a First Folio at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Stay tuned!

© All Content, Copyright 2012 by Blog Author, Or What You Will. All Rights Reserved.

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