Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Besides the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and Presidential Library, another main attraction in Staunton, Virginia, is the Blackfriars Playhouse.  Several weeks before our trip we had purchased tickets for a play, and after we finished at the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace, we had an hour or so to kill before the play began. We wandered for a bit up and down Staunton's picturesque downtown, which can't look a whole lot different than it did when Woodrow Wilson was born (minus the cars, asphalt, and streetlights, of course).
Photo from here
We serendipitously wandered into a small cheese store of the highest order. We had only eaten about eight times so far that day, so of course we were hungry. The fact that they sold gourmet cheeses and wild boar sausage actually made us believe that little lie.

We stashed what we didn't eat in our car, then made our way to the Blackfriars Playhouse, home of the American Shakespeare Center.
This is the only re-creation of Shakespeare's indoor theater in the world. It replicates the unadorned stage. There is no stage lighting or spotlights--audience and stage have the same lighting. There is no soundtrack or even amplification. Audience members sit close to the stage on the main level--and sometimes are even on the stage--and lean over the railings of the two upper levels.
Photo from here
Like so many other places, no photography is allowed inside. Sigh.

We had the pleasure of seeing a non-Shakespeare play entitled Return to the Forbidden Planet. It's not that we chose it that way--given the choice, I would opt for the True Bard--but that's what was playing on the night we were in town. The play is what is known as a "jukebox musical," or a play that uses existing popular songs as the musical score. (Think of the movie/play Mama Mia!) In a nutshell, the play is a quirky, zany mash-up of Shakespeare's play The Tempest and the 1950s science fiction film The Forbidden Planet.  It is full of references to and familiar lines from many Shakespearean plays.

This is a destination perfect for die-hard Shakespeare fans and academics.  Before the play there was a trivia game for the audience that drew from the minutiae of various Shakespeare plays. In spite of my graduate degree in English, most of the questions were way out of my league. However, the theatre still offered plenty for the average Shakespeare lover (like me) and even for the Shakespeare novice (like my husband). The play was loads of fun, the actors were terrific, and the familiar rock-n-roll music and dancing from the 50s and 60s was a blast. Not only does the intimate setting of this theater draw the audience in, but the actors also occasionally literally draw in an audience member or two.


  1. The questions were certainly out of my league. I was kind of happy to have modern music and sarcastic and funny lines parodying Shakespeare. It was a lot of fun.

  2. I love the Forbidden Planet + Shakespeare mash-up. Makes total sense!

  3. Sounds like a great time--how do you ever find all these wonderful quirky sights (good research, right?). I'm more along Bob's line, but it would be fun to attend a Shakespearean play with someone like you, who loves the Bard. No review on the cheese/sausage--how were they?

    1. Trip Advisor is a great source for stuff like this. The cheese and sausage were delicious. Wish I knew the name of the place. I couldn't find it online. I guess I could have scoured the credit card bill.