To B&B or not to B&B . . .

You may think this this blog is about B&B’s, but it’s not. It’s just a catchy title and a play on Hamlet. Of course, Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s many famous plays. And Shakespeare is very well known here in Staunton. Not personally, of course. Shakespeare died 400 years ago; before Staunton and most of American cities were even on a map!

The Blackfriar's Playhouse

Staunton is the home of the American Shakespeare Center and Blackfriars Playhouse; the world’s only recreation of Shakespeare’s indoor theater.

My wife and I were fans of Shakespeare’s plays long before we moved to Staunton. Bonnie has a degree in English Literature so her interest in Shakespeare may precede mine but I did have a campaign for 7th grade president where my campaign slogan was also a twist on the line “To be or not to be . . .” so I perhaps learned of Shakespeare before her. Anyway, I digress. When we lived in New Zealand we went to see a Shakespeare play every February at the PumpHouse Outdoor Theatre in Auckland. The last play we saw before moving here was “The Merchant of Venice.”

We studied the plays for several weeks before the performance and took our books with the written plays in them to the performances. We felt it was easier to understand what was happening that way. It was good to follow along because Old English was not our native tongue (certainly English is not Bonnie’s native tongue so she has even a bigger challenge).

We’ve lived in Staunton for 2-1/2 years now and finally had the chance to experience a play at Blackfriars Playhouse last month. Julius Caesar was playing and we heard from many of our guests at Berkeley House Bed & Breakfast who experienced performances at the playhouse that the actors are so good you didn’t need a command of Old English to understand and enjoy the performance. Were they right? Read on . . .

First of all, Blackfriars Playhouse is short walk from Berkeley House Bed & Breakfast; about a 5 minute stroll if you take your time. When we arrived we went to Will Call to collect our tickets like our guests who take advantage of our Shakespeare Play Packages. When you walk in the theater you will be amazed at all the fabulous woodwork inside. A master carpenter must have taken his time because it is stunning. All the seats are good seats and afford you the opportunity to experience the play that happens almost all around you.

Actors are performing popular songs prior to the play and you have an opportunity to go on stage to purchase wine or beer before the performance and at intermission. A couple of actors will come out and talk to the audience to explain what happens during the play and why they “do it with the lights on.” Yes, you feel like you are a part of the performance because you can see everybody and everything, and so can the actors. Promptly at 7:30, for this performance, the actors seamlessly start Act 1 and because you were so involved in the preshow activities you are immediately immersed in Shakespeare.

The actors are amazing and convey Shakespeare’s meaning and purpose flawlessly. Even if you didn’t study the play or Shakespeare in general you can follow the action and will find yourselves moved by what is happening all around you.

We think we’ll be going to many more plays at Blackfriars Playhouse than our annual jaunt in New Zealand now that we’ve experienced what is on offer from the American Shakespeare Center. We are truly fortunate to live in Staunton and we know our guests can have a very memorable experience by staying a night or two at Berkeley House Bed & Breakfast and enjoying an outstanding performance at the Playhouse by adding a Shakespeare Play Package.


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