Staunton, VA, June 19, 2012 – The American Shakespeare Center kicks off a year of Wicked Good theatre with the three shows in the 2012 Summer Season. Beginning June 19, a troupe of ASC veterans and some new faces performs William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, James Goldman’s The Lion in Winter, and William Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona in rotating repertory at the Blackfriars Playhouse.
From Shylock’s unjust Venice to Portia’s golden Belmont, The Merchant of Venice (previews start June 20, opens June 22), is at once a comic love story and a passionate discourse on justice and mercy. Both entertaining and disturbing, this magnificent comedy blurs the lines between the heroes and the villains. “It’s a tricky play and it’s a wonderful play,” says ASC Co-Founder and Artistic Director Jim Warren, also the Director of The Merchant of Venice. “It does so many things to your heartstrings, your funny bone, and your sense of what’s right and wrong.”
James Goldman’s The Lion in Winter (previews start June 19, opens June 23) plays out the spectacular strategies for power and love between one of England’s most formidable and most human royal families. Audience members will see a bit of themselves in each of the characters as romance, sarcasm, backhanded compliments, and familial wrangling take center stage at history’s most high-stakes family Christmas. The 1968 Academy Award-winning movie of the same name was based on the play and both tell the prequel story to Shakespeare's King John - part of the ASC Fall Season. Jim Warren will direct both The Lion in Winter and King John, keeping many of the actors in the same role. John Harrell and Tracy Hostmyer will play John and Eleanor of Aquitaine, respectively, in both. Benjamin Curns will play Richard Lionheart in The Lion in Winter and Richard’s Bastard son in King John.
Finally, the prototype for Shakespeare’s most beloved romantic comedies, The Two Gentlemen of Verona (starting July 8), is simultaneously a familiar and completely surprising trip. A gleeful look at love and a dramatic examination of friendship, Two Gents features one of Shakespeare’s most engaging comic heroines, two of his funniest clowns, and the best role ever written for a real, live dog. The dogs in The Two Gentlemen of Verona are provided by Augusta Dog Adoptions and will be available for adoption after their star-making turns at the Blackfriars Playhouse. ASC Co-Founder and Director of Mission Ralph Cohen directs The Two Gentlemen of Verona and says audiences will love “the young love, the word games, the clowns, the songs, but most of all, the dog.”
The ASC presents an acting troupe of returning favorites and talented newcomers. All of the actors in this rotating repertory troupe play multiple roles, but some of the casting highlights include ASC veterans Benjamin Curns as Gratiano in The Merchant of Venice, Allison Glenzer as Nerissa in The Merchant of Venice, John Harrell as John in The Lion in Winter and King John, Chris Johnston as Thurio in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, James Keegan as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Ronald Peet as Arthur in King John, Gregory Jon Phelps as Proteus in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and René Thornton, Jr. as Antonio in The Merchant of Venice. The ASC is also pleased to welcome back Tracy Hostmyer, (whom audiences may recognize from 2005), playing Eleanor in The Lion in Winter and King John as well eight other roles. Newcomers Grant Davis (Valentine in The Two Gentlemen of Verona), Abbi Hawk (Silvia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona), and Tracie Thomason (Portia in The Merchant of Venice) join the ASC troupe this year.
Audience members are invited to join the ASC Staff and Actors for the Opening Night Party on June 22nd following the 7:30 p.m. Pay What You Will Opening Night performance of The Merchant of Venice (Guests must attend the performance in order to celebrate at the Opening Night Party).
Tickets for the ASC Summer season start at $25 and can be purchased by calling 1.877.Much.Ado (1.877.682.4236). The ASC also offers special talk backs with the actors and pre-show lectures and workshops on each the shows - check the full ASC calendar for details. Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta Country residents can take advantage of a limited "mid-week local rush" ticket for only $18. Student and Senior discounts are also available. For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit AmericanShakespeareCenter.com.