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story.lead_photo.caption Blackfriears Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia, is home base for the American Shakespeare Center. Photo by Submitted photo

WASHINGTON, Ark. — If you are accustomed to visiting Historic Washington State Park annually to see American Shakespeare Center bring The Bard's best, you're still in luck despite the pandemic.

The annual ASC tour that visits the Texarkana area was canceled this year, but the Virginia-based theater group presents "Twelfth Night" online for free. All you have to do is contact the state park today to get your link to see it.

The ASC's BlkFrs LIVE program will present this "Virtual Tour" as a way to reach out and provide Shakespeare to people in the comfort of their home. People will have a week to see the play, just once or as many times as they wish.

The play is one of Shakespeare's beloved romantic comedies, created as a Christmas season drama. ASC will present the play as performed from its Blackfriars Playhouse. Back in 2013, ASC brought "Twelfth Night" to the area, and our local Texarkana Repertory Co. performed it five-and-a-half years ago.

"The American Shakespeare Center is not doing any tours like they've normally done in the past this year due to COVID," said Josh Williams, curator at Historic Washington. Hence, ASC will use BlkFrs LIVE as a way to present performances to people across the country.

This "Twelfth Night" will be a pre-recorded production of the troupe at their home base stage, Williams said. Once the park emails the weblink on Friday, anyone can watch at a convenient time within a week.

"You have up to seven days to watch and re-watch the play at your leisure, at any time that works best for you," Williams said, noting they signed up to make a Shakespeare comedy available.

"We thought that would be best to do a comedy at this time," Williams said, recalling the funny moments in the play, a key part of the narrative.

"It does take place on what is typically Jan. 6, Twelfth Night with a Twelfth night party. There's a set of twins that play different roles and impersonate other people, which causes confusion and comedy throughout the events. There's a romance, as well, with it," Historic Washington's curator said.

Historic Washington started bringing American Shakespeare Center to town after Williams saw them in Staunton, Virginia.

"What I loved about them is that they really tried to bring it alive, the Shakespeare, than what you would normally read in a classroom setting, and tried to involve the audience in how they performed," Williams said.

At the WPA Gym in the park, the audience is essentially right there on stage with the actors.

"They bring you in as part of the play, and I've always thought the way they've done the play they really make it to where the language is not a barrier anymore. The way they really study it. They kind of bring it across so people understand it very well," Williams said.

The audience won't have the physical interaction this year, but they still can make Shakespeare accessible to a modern generation, the curator said, noting that although this year is different, they're happy to provide this type of experience to people.

"Shakespeare was very popular in 19th century Washington, so we're continuing that by still doing that at our normal time of year around this time," he said.

(To reserve the video, call 870-983-2684 and provide a valid email address. A weblink to watch "Twelfth Night" will be sent to that email address provided. Funding is provided by the Patterson-Troike Foundation and other partners.)

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