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Updated 10:00 AM October 16, 2006




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Curtain rises on Royal Shakespeare Co. residency,
long-term cultural-economic impact expected

The keynote lecture on William Shakespeare is billed as an evening of "transcendent oratory."

In common parlance that simply means the sky's the limit when talking about Shakespeare's timeless appeal.
Mariah Gale as Miranda will share the stage with Patrick Stewart as Prospero in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of "The Tempest." (Photo courtesy University Musical Society)

Professor Ralph Williams' discussion of the intersection of politics and the personal in "Antony and Cleopatra," "Julius Caesar" and "The Tempest"—at 7 p.m. Oct. 23, Rackham Auditorium—offers a resounding opening to the Royal Shakespeare Company's much-anticipated three-week residency at U-M, including 95 offstage activities serving groups at public schools, universities, theaters and hospitals, and more than 40 free educational events open to the public. The three plays will be performed Nov. 1-12.

The residency is presented by the University Musical Society (UMS) with major support from U-M.

"The Royal Shakespeare Company residency has many innovative and inspiring events for the University and regional community," says President Mary Sue Coleman. "Our students have a wonderful opportunity to interact and learn from one of the world's greatest theater companies. Beyond that, the impact from this residency could redefine the nature and scope of future artistic residencies."

Williams, an internationally renowned Shakespearean scholar, has been the "spiritual and intellectual soul" of RSC since the company's 2001 performances of "Henry VI, parts I, II and III" and "Richard III" at U-M, says Kenneth Fischer, president of UMS. The award-winning history plays staged exclusively in Ann Arbor were directed by Michael Boyd, RSC artistic director.

"Over the years, we've built connections with RSC, and now we're showing how extensively a residency can reach into the community and transform how we experience great art," Fischer says.

UMS and the U-M campus will be the exclusive venue for the three plays, which are part of the company's Complete Works Festival that began in April. The residency is the third since 2001, when U-M became the first American university to partner with the RSC.

Redefining the reach of residency

From local restaurants renaming menu items to fit a Shakespearean theme to a possible halftime appearance by RSC actors at the Big House, there are signs that the three-week residency will be anything but conventional.

Finalists of the Shakespearean Sonnet Slam competition—judged by RSC actors—will perform Nov. 5 on the Rackham Auditorium stage. Meanwhile, other offstage residency activities include roundtable discussions on the plays, exhibits on set designs and costumes, lectures and interviews with several RSC actors, including Patrick Stewart of "Star Trek" fame, who will perform the leading role in "Antony and Cleopatra" and as Prospero in "The Tempest."

RSC members also will travel to Cass Tech, University Prep and Martin Luther King Jr. high schools in Detroit to help prepare the students' production of "Julius Caesar." And, RSC actors will go from the stage to the gridiron spotlight as they visit members of the U-M football team and explore the connection between acting and football when it comes to playing to an audience.

Economics of culture

"There's tremendous impact on the University, community and region," Fischer says. "The RSC residency is another sign of how culture, community and quality of life are inextricably bound."

Proof that the residency's impact goes beyond the academic community, Fischer says, is that the MEDC is one of the sponsors. The development corporation decided to sponsor "Julius Caesar" shortly before Google announced it would open an office in Ann Arbor.

MEDC is a state agency that assists companies in locating to Michigan. It provides state funds to help promote the economic climate of a region. In the last several, years, the agency has supported the Super Bowl Host Committee, Ryder Cup and All-Star game in Detroit.

"Behind the corporate sponsorships is the belief that supporting cultural events is the best way to promote the viability of a community," Fischer says.

Additional support for the RSC residency is provided by the Power Foundation, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and Northwest Airlines. Productions and Community Engagement activities are sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC), DTE Energy and DTE Energy Foundation and Pfizer.

For more information on events and schedules go to or

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