One of my goals this year is to start seeing more theatre again (especially now that I'm on the StageSource Board, maybe I'd better step it up a little). Though they have an outstanding reputation, I've never managed to make it to a show by the Actors Shakespeare Company--this is due to a lack of time, lack of money, and the fact that I often fall asleep during Shakespeare. All playwrights are supposed to revere Shakespeare, and I am amazed by most of the plays (I was in a Shakespeare company in college), but it's not my big passion. The falling asleep thing isn't necessarily related to Shakespeare--as my family will attest, I'm pretty good at falling asleep in the evening in front of the TV, or in the middle of a conversation. (It's my superpower.)
Last night, I made it to Duchess of Malfi to see the Actors Shakespeare Company at work (though this was Webster not Shakespeare, their first departure from the canon). It was opening night and I had free tickets (which helped).
I did not fall asleep. Not even close. There's lost of love, lust, murder, betrayal, and just plain nastiness on stage. And I was in the front row (which doesn't always keep me awake, I confess, but instead makes me embarrassed when I do nod off), and there was no way I could doze. The play was intense and the acting generally pretty sharp (Bill Barclay as Bosola was a standout for me). I definitely recommend the show.
The staging, a long carpeted rasied runway between two massive sets of double doors was really sharp--set, lights, and sound worked to clarify and enhance the play--I'd love to have this team work on one of my full-length plays.
The space, Midway Studios, is pretty interesting--a theatre carved out of an old mill/factory building in the Fort Point Arts district. Big old wood and iron beams all around, and not bad sound qualities at all. Plenty of space. I could definitely imagine some of my plays staged there (especially God's Voice).
The only negative of the space is that it's a pretty long walk from South Station, which can be both cold and deserted. If I was ASP (not that they've asked me), I'd consider renting or borrowing a 15-passenger van, and set up a shuttle between South Station and the theatre. It'd be a way to make more direct contact with patrons and make sure that people actually got to the theatre. Get a big magnetic sign to put on the side of the van, and it'd serve to advertise the show as it was driving around.
Once the audience is trained to come to this spot, this might no longer be necessary, but you want to get rid of any excuses people have for not attending. (Of course their next two shows are in different spaces, which confuses me a little. ASP has no trouble getting audience, because they're pretty darn good, so maybe they don't worry so much about audience training.)
My other minor quibble was snacks (not that they asked me about this either). If I'm out on a cold night to the theatre and need strength to help me stay awake for Act II and get home, I need good snacks. I paid $1.50 for some little cereal packet that wasn't worth $0.25. Brownies and cookies are where it's at. And not factory ones either, but home baked or bakery versions. Good snacks help finish off the evening (and make money).
Anyway, it's a good show. Go see it if you can (but bring good walking shoes and your own chocolate).