Washington Shakespeare Company announces New Season and a New Name

Aug 9, 2011
WSC Avant Bard

Always willing to take chances and evolve, Washington Shakespeare Company (WSC) is pleased to announce its new name along with its new season!

After 21 years as the area's cutting-edge classical theater company, Washington Shakespeare Company is now WSC Avant Bard, a new name that pays homage to the company's beginnings while representing its growth.

Launching its 22nd season in a new theater was the opportune time to usher in a new name, representing the success and progress of the company over the past two decades. WSC Avant Bard's Artistic Director Christopher Henley has been with the company since its birth, and recognized a new name just made sense.

"We're an avant garde ensemble, yet our name seemed institutional, reminiscent of a more conservative or establishment company. Our new name is the best representation of who we are now and how we have matured as a groundbreaking troupe," said Henley. "We will continue to produce great works - bringing a breath of fresh air to the classics, and taking a traditional, familiar story and looking at it from a new or different perspective."

Continuing this practice of making the classics feel more contemporary and relevant for today's audiences played a big role in the company's choice of a new name. "It's a turning point for us, a time to move the name and the company forward," said Executive Director Warren Arbogast. "For two decades, we produced great shows but there was also a lot of confusion about our name. This is an opportunity for us to reach out to new people, in our new theater."

WSC Avant Bard has tackled everything from an all-nude production of Macbeth to an all-female production of The Taming of the Shrew; thus the challenge of taking on a new name as it launches its new season is simply par for the course. First up this season is a unique production of Happy Days, one of the three major full-length plays by Samuel Beckett, arguably the most important and influential playwright of the 20th century.

In 1994 and 2004, the company produced Beckett's Waiting for Godot, but Happy Days is the third and brightest of the trio, yet in the inimitable style of the dramatist, it has a singular view of life. "The play opens with a woman cheerfully going about her daily routines, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she is buried up to her waist in dirt," said Henley. "It is a beautiful, funny and poignant look at the human impulse to make the best of - and in some ways to ignore - the realities of life and death."

In November, WSC Avant Bard presents its Shakespeare production for the season, The Mistorical Hystery of Henry I(V), an adaptation of the Bard's Henry IV as one full-length play. What's "avant bard" about this production is, among other things, the casting. Instead of a traditional approach, with a mostly male cast, WSC Avant Bard's production will turn the play around and put most of the roles in the hands of women, with a touch of satire and commentary on our times the logical result.

This winter, WSC Avant Bard tackles Albert Camus' Les Justes, about a terrorist cell in Russia at the turn of the last century - a play that resonates even today. Finally in the spring, two plays will be produced in rotating repertory: The Tooth of Crime by Sam Shepard and The Bacchae by Euripides.

"WSC Avant Bard will always take a chance - that's our brand," said Henley. "From a new name to a new home to a new take on a classic, we are willing to take risks and produce non-traditional theater that sets us apart and wins over audiences from around the region. We have evolved from a scrappy start up to a substantial theater company, without losing our edge. And we will continue to do so, with our new name, new home and new season."