American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia, has announced that their Summer 2020 SafeStart Season will be available for online viewing in partnership with Marquee TV. Dubbed “BlkFrs LIVE,” live performances of Shakespeare’s hilarious romp Twelfth Night and his tragic masterpiece Othello will be available for synchronous streaming from the Blackfriars Playhouse into homes across the globe.
American Shakespeare Center (ASC) is among the first not-for-profit companies in North America to produce live theater for in-person audiences since the pandemic shut the performing arts industry down in March. As part of its 2020 SafeStart Season, the company has offered audiences three ways to enjoy performances this summer: online via BlkFrs LIVE and Marquee TV; appropriately socially distanced at the Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor stage; and outdoors on the lawn of the Blackburn Inn and Conference Center.
“More than anything, the 2020 season is about offering audiences the vital connection they get from live performance. From the outset, we recognized that an important part of doing that in these conditions was meeting people where they were, and where they could feel safe,” says Artistic Director Ethan McSweeny. “Since not everyone will want — or be able — to visit us in person, through BlkFrs LIVE we are bringing the Playhouse experience to them.”
Shakespeare’s beloved comedy of (mis)identity, Twelfth Night, debuts in a fast-paced 95-minute experience on Friday, August 21, at 7:30 p.m. EDT. Digital audience members will be treated to all the hilarity of this romantic comedy, directed by ASC’s Associate Artistic Director Dan Hasse, from the comfort of their couch during this one-night-only viewing.
Next, envious machinations and evil intentions take hold in Othello, livestreaming on Friday, August 28, at 7:30 p.m. EDT. Directed by celebrated ASC Artistic Director Ethan McSweeny, this stunningly relevant production of Shakespeare’s tragedy of racism and jealousy promises to bring audiences to the edge of their seats, no matter where those are.
Both shows will be shot in four-camera cinema-quality, live from the stage of the Blackfriars Playhouse.
ASC is excited to partner with Marquee TV on these first BlkFrs LIVE offerings. Marquee TV is a UK-based multi-genre performing arts streaming service that caters to arts-oriented audiences hungry for content that is underserved via other digital media outlets.
Pay-per-view digital tickets to BlkFrs LIVE will cost $20. A household need purchase only one ticket per show. Synchronous viewing will be available only on August 21 and August 28, but each video will be available for on-demand purchase for 16 days after its respective livestream.
“ASC and Marquee TV have a common goal to maintain the art industry’s vitality during these uncertain times,” says Managing Director Amy Wratchford. “With their help, we are able to bring the lights-on experience of a Blackfriars Playhouse visit simultaneously to new and returning fans, at home and in person. These innovations help us continue to employ our artists and staff.”
In March, ASC created BlkFrsTV, a groundbreaking and industry-leading online theater and education platform, and committed to move forward as “dual citizens” of the physical and digital worlds. More than 50,000 people enjoyed digital content from ASC in the first half of 2020.
BlkFrsTV on-demand viewing options for Othello and Twelfth Night will become available later this fall. More information will be announced soon; fans are encouraged to stay up-to-date with news on the company’s website and social media or by signing up for ASC’s email communication.
ASC’s digital portfolio also includes two ongoing series on social media. Live @ Blackfriars — a monthly concert of contemporary hits hosted by ASC’s actor-manager for music Chris Johnston, featuring special guests performing on ASC’s historic stage. This series returns Sunday, August 16, on Facebook Live with the entire summer 2020 SafeStart acting company. Dr. Ralph Presents: Then Must You Speak — a weekly Friday discussion series focusing on the constellation of complex issues and responses to race and Shakespeare, in theory and in practice, past and present — continues on the company’s Facebook page throughout the summer.
Educational partners can purchase digital performances for their classroom. Virtual Student Matinees and Workshops are available to bring Shakespeare to life for all levels of students in any learning environment. Performing arts venues and other bookers can join in on the Virtual Tour via either BlkFrs LIVE or BlkFrsTV; visit the company’s website for more information.
Tickets to the August 21 and August 28 BlkFrs LIVE performances are on sale now on a pay-per-view basis on the Marquee TV website. Visit www.americanshakespearecenter.
About the American Shakespeare Center
The American Shakespeare Center recovers the joys and accessibility of Shakespeare’s theater, language, and humanity by exploring the English Renaissance stage and its practices through performance and education. Year-round in Staunton’s Blackfriars Playhouse — the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theater — ASC’s innovative programming and “shamelessly entertaining” (The Washington Post) productions have shared the delights of Shakespeare, modern classics, and new plays with millions over the past 30 years. Beyond the Playhouse, ASC is a hub for Shakespeare education and scholarship and tours nationally from Texas to Maine each year with a repertory of three plays. Founded in 1988 as Shenandoah Shakespeare Express, the organization became the American Shakespeare Center in 2005 and can be found online at www.americanshakespearecenter.