ASF + $$$ = RSC N TX?

The Austin Shakespeare Festival may be the first company in America to stage the Royal Shakespeare Company's hit comedy 'The Dog in the Manger,' but first it must raise $15,000

The Royal Shakespeare Company and playwright David Johnston are allowing the Austin Shakespeare Festival to be the first company on this side of the Big Pond to stage one of their biggest hits of the past season: a new translation of Lope de Vega's Spanish Golden Age comedy, The Dog in the Manger. What's more, Johnston, the writer responsible for that translation, is interested in coming to Texas to see what an American company does with the play. There's just one catch. Can you guess what it is? Oh yes, money.

Like many companies, ASF has not had an easy time of it financially the past few years. You may recall that in the fall of 2003, the company had to scramble to raise $25,000 in a month or risk the cancellation of its 2004 productions, including a repertory staging of Othello, Titus Andronicus, and The Winter's Tale. The company raised the funds and the shows did go on (all except Othello, which was postponed until this year), but the company has still struggled with attendance and fundraising with last fall's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream adding tens of thousands of dollars in new debt. That nearly scuttled this spring's scheduled presentation of Othello and The Dog in the Manger in rotating repertory, but ASF once again did some under-the-gun fundraising. It secured $33,759 in the last 10 weeks, enough to proceed with both shows. The run begins with The Dog in the Manger on Feb. 25.

Johnston's presence could be a push for the company in marketing the production, especially since he has offered to give lectures and talks for ASF free of charge if it can find a way to bring him to Texas. So, Artistic Director Guy Roberts, who put the play on this season after his strong reaction to seeing the RSC production last summer, is looking for an angel who will help underwrite Johnston's visit. And there's more debt to pay off, so financial support of all kinds is needed. If you'd like to help, donations may be mailed to: Austin Shakespeare Festival, PO Box 683, Austin 78767-0683. For more information, call 454-2273 or visit www.austinshakespeare.org.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Royal Shakespeare Company, David Johnston, Austin Shakespeare Festival, Lope de Vega, The Dog in the Manger, Guy Roberts, JP Morgan Chase

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