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American Shakespeare Center

Mission: The American Shakespeare Center (ASC) recovers the joys and accessibility of Shakespeare’s theatre, language, and humanity by exploring the English Renaissance stage and its practices through performance and education.

Community Need: Since its establishment, the ASC has been committed to giving the local community access to the transformative power of Shakespeare’s words.  As the only professional classical theatre company in the region, ASC is an important cultural resource for locals and tourists alike.  ASC also acts as one of the community’s greatest economic drivers.  Since 2001, tourism revenue in downtown Staunton has increased by 99%. Due to school arts funding cuts, many students do not have access to live theatre.  In order to promote access to plays, ASC offers several flexible ticket pricing options. Pay-What-You-Will (PWYW) performances are a risk-free way for families to engage with the arts. Rather than giving out free tickets, allowing families to set their own price empowers them to attribute value to theatre.

Primary Activities: By re-creating Shakespeare’s staging conditions ASC emphasizes audience involvement and understanding and makes the communal experience of theatre accessible to audiences of a broad generational, ethnic, and socioeconomic spectrum. ASC On Tour offers high quality, productions, in repertory, on the road, along with 13 related educational workshops.

ASC’s thriving Education Department fosters deeper connections between its varied constituency and Shakespeare. Each summer ASC provides two three week-long college-preparatory theatre camps for high school students from across the country. Lecture series and corporate leadership training round out education programs and promote lifelong learning.  In April 2017, ASC launched an industry-changing new play competition: Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries. It seeks to build a modern canon of 38 new plays written as companion pieces to Shakespeare’s timeless work.

Constituents Served: Locally, ASC serves the communities of Staunton and Waynesboro, and the counties of Augusta, Nelson, and Highland counties, in addition to patrons from all across the country. In its last fiscal year, ASC had over 35,000 patrons attend performances, talkback, Student Matinees, Playhouse Tours, and special events.  ASC On Tour included 74 performances in 18 states for a total audience of 27,000 patrons. In total, ASC served over 62,000 patrons last year, approximately 50,000 adults (18+) and 12,000 children and young adults (4-17).

Program Details: PWYW program ensures that at least two performances per show will have the option for patrons to first see a show, and then pay for their ticket by way of a donation. Patrons can pay at any level that is meaningful to them. Shakespeare tells the stories of us all, and with a local poverty rate at 12.8% (a full percent higher than the state average), ASC values its role in giving all citizens access to high-quality theatre. This program would underwrite the 2018 Holiday Season’s PWYW performances, which are integral to ASC’s goal of making high-quality theatre accessible to everyone. PWYW performances help connect the community, both socially and emotionally, during the Holiday Season.

Amount Requested: $10,000

Operating Budget: $3,739,241


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