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New classical theater company performs in Flushing

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"I wanted there to be a permanent resident classical theater in Queens that would produce both Shakespearean and non-Shakespearean drama," Asher said, and since there wasn't one, she went about the task of forming one.So was born Queens Shakespeare Inc., a not-for-profit theater and teaching company that rehearses and stages plays at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Queens, located at the corner of 149th Street and Ash Avenue in Flushing. They performed a Shakespearean Sampler at the congregation on Dec. 10, "which was a great success," said Asher, president and artistic director of the group. As for education, the company is currently teaching those who are in the cast and hopes to eventually expand into a classroom program for the schools."I've always been involved in theater, as both an actress and a director in Pennsylvania and New York," said Asher, who was born in Pittsburgh and later attended Westminster College in Pennsylvania. She received her master's degree from New York University, where she studied Shakespearean drama extensively and then moved to Flushing, which she has called home for 40 years now. Asher taught English at Hunter College, CUNY, until she retired, but she never stopped working in theater and has even "taken performers to perform at the Globe Theater in London, where I've also studied," she added.Rehearsals are currently underway for the first full-length show that Queens Shakespeare will put on, "Macbeth," performances of which will begin Feb. 10 and take place Friday and Saturday nights through Feb. 25."There is a cast of 30 with both equity and non-equity players," Asher said, "as well as some students. The company is a mix of professional and non-professional, but the show is professionally directed and stage-managed." Most of the players are from Queens and Manhattan, she said, but noted that the trustees are from Queens, and borough residents have priority casting.The people cast in the two leading roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are from Massachusetts, however, although John Haag, who will play Macbeth, is originally from Brooklyn. "He's had important roles in theater, all over New England," Asher said, "and he won all kinds of raves for his work at the Sugar Theater Company in Boston, Mass., in the Red Raftery role in 'On Raftery's Hill.'"He also played Nick in "The Guise," for The Theater Project in West Springfield, Mass., and Robert in "Proof Wooster" at the Foothills Theater in Massachusetts. "He's also an expert in stage combat," Asher pointed out, which promises to add extra energy and excitement to the production.The role of Lady Macbeth will be played by Jeannine Haas, who has won many awards for acting and has directed at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., and other places in the area, Asher said. She is a multi-talented woman who has done TV and radio work in Tulsa, Okla., co-founded a project for the use of drama in women's education in South Africa and played Emily Dickenson in a BBC special.Both of these actors participated in the "Shakespeare Sampler.""There are seasoned equity actors with many years of theatrical involvement in both acting and directing," Asher said.For more information, or to purchase tickets for "Macbeth," call Queens Shakespeare Inc. at 718-357-3842. Tickets will sell for $15 and $20, and there will be a free matinee for students on Feb. 17, for which advance reservations are required. Shows will be held Feb. 10, 11, 17, 18, 24 and 25.Reach contributing writer Danielle Winterton by e-mail at qguide@gmail.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 ext. 141.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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