Even as the Shakespeare's Globe in London this morning unveiled its 2017 "Summer of Love" season under Artistic Director Emma Rice, the theater announced the end of Rice's tenure at the end of the 2017/18 theater calendar year.
At issue has been the Globe's long dedication to "shared lighting" principles: Rice has been mounting productions relying heavily on electronic lighting and sound. The Shakespeare Globe Trust Board, which appointed Rice in May 2015, has "determined that the current nature of work, which has characterized the period since Emma assumed the position of artistic director in April 2016, will conclude in April 2018, when Emma will be leaving the Globe following its 2017/18 Winter Season," said a Shakespeare's Globe Press Office statement.
"Emma’s mold-breaking work has brought our theater new and diverse audiences, won huge creative and critical acclaim, and achieved exceptionally strong box office returns," Neil Constable, CEO of Shakespeare's Globe, said in the statement. "In breaking the mold, this latest season has generated productive debate concerning the purpose and theatrical practice of the Globe in relation to the use of sound and lighting technology within our theater spaces. Following much deliberation and discussion, the Globe Board has concluded that from April 2018, the theater programming should be structured around 'shared light' productions without designed sound and light rigging, which characterized a large body of The Globe’s work prior to Emma’s appointment."
In Elizabethan amphitheaters, like the 1599 Globe Theatre, performances took place in "shared light." Under such conditions, actors and audiences would be able to see each other. This attention to a key original playing condition of Shakespeare’s theater enables the actors to play with rather than to or at audiences.
The Globe was reconstructed as a radical experiment to explore the conditions within which William Shakespeare and his contemporaries worked, "and we believe this should continue to be the central tenet of our work," Constable said. "Whilst the realization of Emma’s vision has been a vital part of our continuing experimentation as a theater, we have now concluded that a predominant use of contemporary sound and lighting technology will not enable us to optimize further experimentation in our unique theater spaces and the playing conditions which they offer."
The same press release included a statement from Rice. “I have had a wonderful time creatively here at the Globe, but I respect the Board’s decision for its future direction. I look forward to continuing to explore the possibilities of this extraordinary space over the next 18 months, excited to see even more astonishing work unfolding in the glorious wooden 'O' as well as the exquisite Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. My tenure as artistic director has given me the opportunity of forging relationships with the most talented array of directors, actors, and Globe staff throughout my 2016 Wonder Season, whom I will be sad to say farewell to. The wonder now continues with the Wonder Noir Winter Season, and ahead to my 2017 Summer Season, which promises to be filled with joy, delight, and love.”
In fact, the Globe press office, just one minute before it released the statement of Rice's departure, announced the lineup for what Rice is theming the "Summer of Love," marking the 50th anniversary of the summer of 1967.
The season opens on April 22, with Romeo and Juliet, followed by Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn, Twelfth Night, Kneehigh’s Tristan & Yseult, Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, and the world premiere of Tristan Bernays’ Boudica.
William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet will be directed by Daniel Kramer, artistic director of the English National Opera (ENO). His recent credits include Tristan and Isolde (ENO), Pélleas et Mélisande (Mariinsky and Bolshoi Theatre), Carmen (Vlaamse Opera, Opera North), Punch and Judy (Grand Théâtre Geneva, ENO), Bluebeard’s Castle (Mariinsky and Bolshoi Theatre), Pictures from an Exhibition (Sadlers Wells and Young Vic), King Kong (Regent Theatre, Australia), Woyzeck (St. Ann’s Warehouse), Bent (Trafalgar Studios, West End), and Hair (Gate Theatre).
Emma Rice’s new production of Twelfth Night is set to open May 18. Next up on the Shakespeare lineup is Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Globe Associate Director Matthew Dunster, from July 14. In a fresh interpretation, the love stories of Hero and Claudio and Beatrice and Benedick are transported to 1910 at the outbreak of the Mexican Civil War. Matthew is an Olivier Award–nominated director and writer whose recent credits include Imogen at the Globe, Hangmen (Royal Court and West End), Love’s Sacrifice (Royal Shakespeare Company), The Seagull (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre), and Liberian Girl (Royal Court).
The last Shakespeare entry of the season will be King Lear, directed by Nancy Meckler, opening August 10. Meckler is the founder and former artistic director of the theater company Shared Experience. Her numerous productions for them include the award-winning Anna Karenina, Heartbreak House, True West, The Birthday Party, The Bacchae, and Orestes. In 1981, she was the first woman to direct a major production at the National Theatre, with Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?On May 2, the United Kingdom tour of Jessica Swale’s Olivier Award-winning Nell Gwynn returns to the Globe, in a coproduction with English Touring Theatre, in association with Nica Burns, Eleanor Lloyd Productions, and Paula Marie Black. Directed by Christopher Luscombe, Nell Gwynn stars Olivier–Award Nominee Laura Pitt-Pulford as the eponymous actress and mistress of Charles II.
Kneehigh’s Tristan & Yseult will be revived on the Globe stage beginning June 13 as part of a major Celtic tour for the company, which will see it travel to Cornwall, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Written by Kneehigh Artistic Associates Carl Grose and Anna Maria Murphy, adapted and directed by Emma Rice, this critically acclaimed production catapulted Kneehigh onto the international stage and toured extensively in the UK in 2013 and United States during 2014 and 2015.
Finally, the Globe hosts the world premiere of Tristan Bernays’s new play Boudica, directed by Eleanor Rhode, beginning Sept. 8. Boudica, Queen of the Iceni tribe, wages a bloody uprising against the Roman Empire in this epic tale of power, politics, and love. Bernays's recent writing credits include The Bread & The Beer (Soho Theatre and UK Tour), Iron Oxide (Southwark Playhouse), Old Fools (Bush Theatre), and Aftershocks (National Theatre Studio). Rhode is artistic director at Snapdragon Productions. Her recent work includes Toast (UK Tour and Brits Off Broadway, New York), When We Were Women (Orange Tree Theatre), Thark (Park Theatre), and two sell-out runs of Generous (Finborough Theatre). Rhode and Bernays have previously collaborated on Teddy (Winner of Best New Musical in the 2015 Off West End Awards), and Frankenstein (currently at the Watermill Theatre and on tour).
Advance priority booking begins Jan. 4 with Friends priority booking beginning Jan. 9. Public booking opens Jan. 10. For run dates of each production, see Bard on the Boards.
A further statement will be made "in due course" when the process for appointing a successor artistic director is established, according to the Globe press office.
October 25, 2016