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June 22, 2005

The Bard in Boston: Actors’ Shakespeare Project

The Actors’ Shakespeare Project (ASP) is an exciting new venture in Boston theater. Formed by AEA actors to present Shakespeare in strong, simple, intimate productions, its first season – RICHARD III, MEASURE FOR MEASURE and JULIUS CAESAR – has drawn raves from both critics and audience members.

RICHARD III, with John Kuntz and Sarah Newhouse
Photo Credit: Kippy Goldfarb

ASP began in 2004, when Benjamin Evett, a former member of the American Repertory Theatre’s resident company, who had acted in more than 50 plays there, brought together a group of other highly-regarded, experienced professional actors (one newspaper called it “a punch list of Boston theater royalty”) to realize a dream. A company was formed, dedicated to performing Shakespeare’s plays in intimate, bare-bones productions that focus on the interaction between actor, text and audience and use alternative spaces - art galleries, community centers, historic sites, churches, schools – each chosen because it resonates with the particular play being performed and because it opens ways to reach new audiences.

RICHARD III, the debut production, was staged at the Old South Meeting House, birthplace of the Boston Tea Party, whose political associations and austere religious architecture enhanced the play. MEASURE FOR MEASURE was presented at the Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center, formerly a Lutheran church and now a center for the Latino community, and JULIUS CAESAR is at the Cambridge Family YMCA Theatre.

From the outset, quality in acting and the welding together of a truly collaborative company came first. Evett directed Richard; Robert Walsh, a company member, actor and director, directed MEASURE FOR MEASURE. There were 11 Equity contracts in Richard; nine in MEASURE FOR MEASURE and seven in JULIUS CAESAR. An uncommon company spirit has grown up. Two actors, Jennie Israel and Sarah Newhouse, are Associate Artistic Directors. Managing Director Sara Stackhouse has had wide experience as an arts administrator, and Marketing Director Michael F. Walker is also an actor and director.

This summer, the company will undertake a variety of educational projects, including one with incarcerated youth. Next season has already been announced: KING LEAR (Sept. 29-Oct. 23), TWELFTH NIGHT (Dec. 15-Jan. 8), and ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL (April 29-May 14). ASP appears to be on its way.

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