|Scene from Henry IV, Part II. Photo by John Haynes, courtesy Royal Shakespeare Company|
Shakespeares history plays are among his most intriguing and challenging works, Fischer says. What the RSC was looking for was a place where the plays could be presented as a cycle, but also where their context and meaning could be fully explored. The RSC sees the University of Michigan as the ideal place for all of these things to happen.
As part of the RSCs three-week March residency, the Stratford-on-Avon-based company will perform new productions of four of Shakespeares history playsHenry VI, Parts I, II and III, and Richard IIIat the Power Center for the Performing Arts. The RSCs history cycle will be staged exclusively in the United States at Ann Arbor. The residency is one of the tangible results of the RSCs first partnership with an American public university and the first of several projects in the initial five-year collaboration among the U-M, the UMS and the RSC.
I am delighted the University is working as a partner with the University Musical Society and the Royal Shakespeare Company to bring Shakespeares history plays to Ann Arbor, Bollinger says. The RSCs Michigan residency will long be remembered, for sterling performances by this renowned theatrical company as well as for the related educational and cultural programs that promise to inspire students and all those who love the performing arts and Shakespeare.
More than 75 educational events are planned, ranging from guest lectures, interviews and exhibitions to workshops on acting, text analysis, voice and movement, set design, and lighting.
Almost 40 of these events are free and open to the public.
This residency is for everybodyyoung people, college students and adults, Fischer says, noting that it builds on the UMSs and
U-Ms longstanding commitment to engage individuals and communities throughout the state and the region.
|David Oyelowo is the first Black actor to play an English king in an RSC production. Photo by Manuel Harlan, courtesy Royal Shakespeare Company|
RSC staff are working with theater students at Detroits Cass Technical High School to rehearse for a one-hour live performance of contemporary scenes from Shakespeare that will be telecast to area schools through Wayne Countys Regional Education Service Agency. Other acting workshops are planned for young people through Detroits Mosaic Youth Theater, as well as for professional actors at Ann Arbors Performance Network.
More than 225 students are enrolled in the course Staging History: Shakespeare on Legitimacy and Rebellion, being coordinated by English Prof. Ralph G. Williams, who has worked closely with the RSC in the months leading up to the productions. The lectures are open to the public.
The project with the Royal Shakespeare Company is marvelous in two ways: It expands our horizons and experience and focuses our resources, Williams says.
The RSC is arguably the best in the English-speaking world in classic drama. We are enriched by our ties with them and have the chance to make possible in England the fulfillment of a cultural project there which would have been incomplete without the resources the residency here provides.
But equally wonderful, he says, has been the coordination of resources here. The University Musical Society is contributing its resources and expertise in mounting complex productions. Faculty from theatre, English, classics and the Residential College are working together to prepare students for the experience of the productions. Likewise exciting is the bringing together of the University with the wider Ann Arbor community and other colleges in the state as we prepare for and experience the residency.
Residency highlights include free, public keynote interviews with RSC Director Michael Boyd and Artistic Director Adrian Noble at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. March 11 in Rackham Auditorium. Williams and Bollinger will conduct the interviews.
The Special Collections Library in the Graduate Library and the Bentley Historical Library have mounted exhibitions as part of the residency.
Shakespeares history plays are based on Englands bloody and most turbulent period in history, with civil war leading to chaos and, ultimately, anarchy. The British press has described the RSC productions of these works as full of hair-raising special effects and blood-curdling combat, [while] never losing a word of the text.
These plays and the historic period itself contain political back-stabbing (and actual stabbings), war, revolt, rebellion, fleeting glory and counterplots, as well as love, lust and ghosts.
From stunning stage designs and costumes to ominous music and ingenious staging, the RSC brings to the U-M and southeast Michigan what Britains The Independent called the Bards epic tale delivered with the clash of panache and buckets of blood.
The RSC is one of the worlds foremost classical theater companies and has performed regularly in the United States since 1913, when actors from the original Shakespeare Memorial Theatre performed in Detroit.
The history plays are presented in cycles, with the first cycle beginning at 11 a.m. March 10 and ending with a 5 p.m. curtain March 11. The second cycle begins at 11 a.m. March 17 and ends with a production of Richard III at 5 p.m. March 18. A third cycle, added to accommodate the demand for tickets, begins at 8 p.m. March 13 and concludes with an 8 p.m. performance March 15. For information on purchasing tickets, call (734) 764-2538 or (800) 221-1229.
A complete list of events, including those open to the public, is on the Web at www.umich.edu/pres/shakespeare/. Additional information is on the UMS Web site, www.ums.org/, and RSC Web site, www.rsc.org.uk/.
This is a sampling of the educational events being offered during the RSCs residency. Most are open to the public. Please check the Web, www.umich.edu/pres/shakespeare, for a listing of public events.