The American Shakespeare Center annually presents its Robin Goodfellow Award to a person whose work and generosity on behalf of the American Shakespeare Center have helped us grow and contribute to our mission to recover the joys and accessibility of Shakespeare's theatre, language, and humanity by exploring the English Renaissance stage and its practices through performance and education.
In short, the Robin Goodfellow Award is the ASC’s ultimate thank-you note. We want it to say to the recipient that when we think about our work, our mission, our history, and who we are going into the future, we think gratefully of you and of what you have done for us. Some of the recipients have been generous donors, some have been friends like Barbara Mowat of the Folger and the late Jim Andreas of the University of South Carolina who have sponsored us at their institutions, some have been past board chairs whose tireless leadership made possible our survival. But many of the most important people in our history have played behind-the-scenes roles and made their love of what we do part of their own work and family.
Tonight we give the Robin Goodfellow Award to a person who was on the board, yes, and who worked hard on the board on those most tedious of jobs like rewriting bylaws and shaping legal documents. And for that we are of course grateful, but we give the award tonight to Lydia Petersson because of all the people in our history she is the outstanding example of how someone who believes in an organization advances it by adopting it into her own life both personally and professionally. Lydia please join Dan and me on stage.
I remember when Lydia brought her children Lys and Zan to Thomas Harrison Middle School where we were playing in the summer of 1992. I remember in part because I thought “what is that woman doing bringing kids that young?” And when we decided to start the Young Company Theatre Camp – one of the true jewels in our crown – her daughter Lys was the first to register – or (I guess) be registered. And I think it fair to say that the ASC built that beloved and amazing program on the enthusiasm Lydia engendered in Lys and Zan. Lys went on to make a fine documentary on the YCTC called “Thunder in the Playhouse,” and Zan, when he went to William and Mary, pretty much transplanted the ASC to Williamsburg by starting his own company. If campers can be said to have foreparents, then Lys and Zan are the foreparents of YCTC and Lydia is the matriarch.
But Lydia adopted us into her professional life as well. Lydia, who is Director of Sponsored Programs at Mary Baldwin College, encouraged one of the craziest ideas of my life – starting a graduate program for men and women who want a degree in teaching, directing, and acting Shakespeare and doing it a woman’s college in the Shenandoah Valley. She helped me frame the proposal to then president Cynthia Tyson, and she became the person in charge of putting together the committee, making it work peacefully together, and crafting the language of the program. Out of her belief in us and hard work has come the MFA program in Shakespeare in Performance, a program that has drawn students from all over America (especially Utah) and from England and Germany. Those amazing students know me, they know Frank Southerington the program’s first director, they know Paul Menzer, but they probably do not know Lydia. What I hope Lydia knows is that in twenty years when those graduates are performing Shakespeare’s plays, running the Shakespeare companies, and teaching the Shakespeare courses that it is her work that transformed the world of Shakespeare and made it welcome millions more Lyses and Zans.
Please join me in giving Lydia Petersson the American Shakespeare Center’s ultimate thank-you note, the Robin Goodfellow!
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The Winter's Tale
Friday, July 31, 2015, 7:30 pm
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