Welcome

2014 is a very exciting year at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and around the world as we celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. There’s always something new to discover, so whether you’re brand new to Shakespeare, or his number one fan, take a look around and become part of the story.

A sneak preview of the Richard III Visitor Centre, Leicester

Last week, representatives from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust were invited to attend the official preview of the new Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester. Here’s an account of the visit from Dr Anjna Chouhan, our Lecturer in Shakespeare Studies…

Located in the city centre, in a former grammar school building, the Richard III Visitor Centre is part of a wider refurbishment project encompassing the Cathedral Gardens area and is designed to make Leicester attractive to tourists both at home and from abroad.

Upon arrival at the striking building, I was greeted by costumed guides and given my very own Richard III badge! Sir Peter Souls by, the Mayor of Leicester who came to visit the Birthplace late last year, began the formal part of the evening by welcoming guests and thanking the individuals and institutions that made the creation and opening of the Centre possible. After much applause, the party was allowed to enter the exhibition.

The first floor is dedicated to the Wars of the Roses, focusing specifically on the battle of Bosworth which was to lead Richard to his fateful death and burial in Leicester. With plenty of audio-visual installations and some surreal lighting, the visitor is then treated to a second exhibition floor. Moving away from the historical section, this exhibit is entirely contemporary. It explores Shakespeare’s heavy influence on recent interpretations of Richard and, most significantly, it explains and celebrates the process of research and discovery that led to the identification of Richard’s remains in a council car park two years ago.

With technology designed by three universities (Leicester, De Montfort and Dundee) visitors can interact digitally with replica bones and visualise how each wound was identified and analysed. Touch screens enable the visitor to follow the facial reconstruction process, and a large screen presentation digitally reconstructs what the Blackfriars church would have looked like when Richard was buried there.

It was splendid to learn that an Education Officer has been recruited recently to develop courses. So far, funding has been secured for the Centre to deliver educational offerings to under 12s from Leicestershire, and I look forward to watching the growth of this department in the near future. Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed my meander about the gift shop. There were all sorts of Richard III memorabilia to play with, including lots of Shakespeare-related items, and I couldn’t resist trying on some of the props. 

I’d like to wish the Richard III Centre and the team behind it my congratulations for setting up this important heritage site in connection with the Leicester dig. 

Visit the Visitor Centre website to find out more.

In Shakespeare’s Shoes – poetry competition winners!

Read more about other Shakespeare activity at the Victoria & Albert Museum, including a Shakespeare trail to follow around the building and Shakespeare: Greatest Living Playwright a special display in the Theatre and Performance Galleries (until 21 September).

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland

Shakespeare on the Road has arrived in Ashland, Oregon for the latest stop on their epic journey around North America. Take a look at what the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is all about…

Established in 1935, the Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival is among the oldest and largest professional regional theatres in the country. Located in Ashland, Oregon, OSF offers an eight-month season with a wide-ranging playbill of 11 productions, including Shakespeare, American classics, musicals, contemporary works and world premieres. OSF has produced the entire Shakespeare canon three times, and as the Festival nears its 80th season and celebrates the 450th anniversary of its namesake playwright’s birth, it has committed to completing the canon yet again - this time in the span of only 10 years, beginning in 2015.

Plays originating at OSF have gone on to be produced by many regional theatres, and its productions have been recognized and honored nationally, including the recent Best Play and Best Actor Tony Awards for “All the Way” on Broadway. In addition to its on-stage presentations, OSF also offers concerts, lectures, park talks, a pre-performance Green Show in the summer, post-show discussions with the actors, and many educational programs that provide learning opportunities for students, teachers and general playgoers.

Inspired by Shakespeare’s work and the cultural richness of the United States, OSF believes we reveal our collective humanity through illuminating interpretations of new and classic plays, deepened by the kaleidoscope of rotating repertory.

Visit https://www.osfashland.org/ to find out more.

Shakespeare, the USA, and the First World War

"The United States of America maintained neutrality in the First World War for nearly 3 years, from the conflict’s outbreak on 28th July 1914 until 6th April 1917. However, this position was ms1debated on both sides of the Atlantic, especially after the sinking of the British liner Lusitania, with 128 American passengers on board, by a German U-boat in 1915. Interestingly, both anti-war and pro-war campaigners enlisted a somewhat unlikely ally to help them make their case: one William Shakespeare.

Shakespearean texts and adaptations (sometimes the same ones) were used during WWI for both pacifist and militaristic purposes, depending on the precise historical moment and political climate.

A particularly striking case in point is Percy MacKaye’s Caliban by the Yellow Sands, based very loosely on Shakespeare’s The Tempest.”

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Many Meetings: Mary Arden's House and Tudor Farm

We were so pleased to read this lovely blog post describing a weekend spent at Mary Arden’s Farm…

"We spent all day Monday at Mary Arden’s House and its working Tudor Farm - and then, because we enjoyed it so much, we went back and spent all day Tuesday there as well.

The site is run by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and includes the house where Mary Arden, Shakespeare’s mother, was born and raised - the youngest of eight sisters.

The house has been extensively rebuilt and extended but, in the interior, one can still see parts of the original timber-framed house. Next to her house is their neighbour’s house, belonging to the Palmer family, and it is in this house that many of the domestic activities take place.

The two houses are surrounded by a large farm that is run entirely on Tudor lines, to the extent permitted by the ‘elf and the EU (Boo!) 

During the morning, the ladies of the house prepare “dinner” for the household and for those day-workers working on the farm. They use their own produce from the farm and gardens and cook it on an open wood fire. To our great disappointment, this means that the ‘elf won’t let us taste it (Another Boo!). In the photo below, the ladies were making blackcurrant fool.

Read the full post and see more of the great photos that go with it!

Shakespeare on the Road reaches Theatricum Botanicum

The beginnings of the Theatricum Botanicum stretch back to the early 1950s when Will Geer, one of the many actors victimized by the McCarthy Era Blacklisting, opened a theatre for Blacklisted actors and folk singers on his Topanga property.

With the advent of television’s “The Waltons” and subsequent popularity of Will’s portrayal of Grandpa, Will Geer gathered his family in 1973 and together they formed a non-profit corporation, The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum. Audiences flocked to free workshop performances of Shakespeare, folk plays and concerts featuring such well-known artists as Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Della Reese & Burl Ives, among others.

At the death of Mr. Geer in 1978, the family and a small band of players decided to work towards becoming a professional repertory theatre, incorporating educational programs and musical events. The local community and surrounding environs encouraged the theatre’s artistic goals and proved their support by donating the labor and materials to begin a campaign which would expand and improve the theatre’s facilities.

The 299-seat outdoor amphitheatre is now one of the few mid-size union houses in the L.A. area, receiving critical praise and numerous awards. Theatricum has expanded the Botanicum grounds by purchasing an additional piece of property southwest of the amphitheatre, enlarging the theatre’s park-like setting available to the community.

The company also offers a variety of educational programs including School Days, Academy of the Classics, a Teen Repertory Company and Classroom Enrichment programs. Through these projects Theatricum engages with kids and adults of all ages throughout the year. In addition, new spaces within the recent expansion of the grounds will allow the Theatricum to serve an increased number of students through its educational programs in the years to come.

Theatricum is celebrating the 450th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth throughout the 2014 season, including a very special birthday party with the Shakespeare on the Road team this Saturday 26 July. Festivities hosted by Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare himself will begin from 2pm, with a performance of All’s Well That Ends Well at 4pm.

Find out more about Theatricum Botanicum.

The First World War, Shakespeare and Stratford

Last week saw the installation and opening of our new exhibition at Hall’s Croft; ‘The First World War, Shakespeare and Stratford’.

This poignant exhibition provides an insight into Stratford-upon-Avon before and during the Great War, and explores the uses of Shakespeare’s work during that time as a morale booster to civilians and soldiers alike.

The exhibition includes items from the Stratford celebrations in April 1914 (before the War) and 1916 (during the War), which were both important dates for Shakespeare as the world marked 350 years since the playwright’s birth and the tricentenary of his death, respectively.

Also on display are a WWI bayonet crossed over a 16th century Halberd, the Last Will and Testament of a young man heading off to France, and another one from a man whose greatest worry was who would care for his daughter Alice if he did not return.

Letters from the son of Fred Winter, who had already established a shop that stands in Henley Street to this day, mostly concerned the weather. He would survive the War to succeed his father in running the shop. There is also a telegram sent to a mother, whose son was not so lucky.

The largest single item in the exhibition is a commemoration of fallen soldiers from the local area, whose names were taken from the War memorial nearby. 

This moving exhibition can be seen as part of a visit to Hall’s Croft, or you can learn more about the stories behind it through an on-going series on our Finding Shakespeare blog. 

Crafty Beasts at Mary Arden’s Farm

We’re getting crafty at Mary Arden’s Farm all this weekend - join us for a celebration of our rare breed animals and the skills of Tudor rural workers!

Try your hand at braiding and peg weaving with the Stratford Sinners & Weavers Guild in Mary Arden’s House. Watch as our Tudors demonstrate a variety of skilled tasks such as stone masonry and willow fence making, using traditional methods as they would have been in Shakespeare’s time.

Wander through our craft and local produce market and soak up the atmosphere to the backdrop of country music and dance provided by Silver Bough.

Read more about what’s going on down at the farm.

Win a Shakespeare Poster from Spineless Classics!

We’re thrilled to be partnering with Spineless Classics to offer UK residents a chance to win one of their fabulous Shakespeare posters; created using the entire text of one of Shakespeare’s plays!

To enter, all you have to do is share your favourite Shakespearean quote with us via Twitter, using #ShakespeareLivesHere.

Share your quote - as a photo, in a video or as a plain old tweet - by 12.00 on Friday 1st August to be included in the prize draw.

Read the full terms & conditions below.

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The Utah Shakespeare Festival

Shakespeare on the Road has arrived at the Utah Shakespeare Festival!

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This Festival was started in response to two influences: summer tourists desiring more evening activities after visiting the area’s national parks, and a young actor’s desire to produce great theatre, Festival Founder Fred C. Adams.

In the first year, the Festival presented The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice. A small company of college students and townspeople produced the plays on an outdoor platform backed by a partial replica of an Elizabethan stagehouse. The initial two-week season attracted an excited 3,276 spectators, yielded a much needed $2,000 on which to build a second season, and demonstrated the cooperative relationship between college and community which still flourishes today.

In 2000, the Festival received the coveted Tony Award for America’s Outstanding Regional Theatre. The Tony Award is the most prestigious and sought-after award in live theatre. The award for the Outstanding Regional Theatre honors a regional theatre company that has “displayed a continuous level of artistic achievement contributing to the growth of theatre nationally.”

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