The Royal Shakespeare Company will work with 13 theater partners and a vast range of amateur theatre-makers across the UK to produce a play for the whole nation to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 2016.
A professional RSC company will tour A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Play for the Nation for 12 weeks throughout the spring and summer of 2016. In every location, a new group of amateur performers will play Bottom and the rude mechanicals and local schoolchildren will play Titania's fairy train.
Deputy Artistic Director, Erica Whyman, will direct the production. "We should all feel as though Shakespeare belongs to us, and yet we know that not everyone does," she said in a press release. "We want to celebrate Shakespeare's legacy as we lead up to 2016 and find new ways of bringing the pleasure of his plays to the widest audience."
She will be collaborating with the following theaters:
The recruitment of the amateur performers begins in the spring 2015 as each partner theater selects amateur groups. The RSC and partners will share skills with the amateurs through a series of workshops throughout the spring and summer, during which 90 amateur actors will be selected.
In the summer, schools across the country, some of whom are already involved in the RSC's Learning and Performance Network, will be invited to take part in workshops for teachers and whole-school activities for students. Children from local primary and secondary schools in each region will be cast as Titania's fairy train from September 2015. About 480 children across the UK will perform in the production.
In the autumn of 2015, the amateur performers will prepare for their roles through a training program with Whyman and regional partners and theatre-makers, exploring Shakespeare and other writers. Rehearsals with the professional company will begin in January 2016, streamed each week from London, Stratford, and two regional locations. People will be able to follow the whole story online and through a unique broadcast collaboration with the BBC, who will track the amateurs every step of the way from spring 2015 to their moment on stage in the summer of 2016.
The production will open in Stratford-upon-Avon in February 2016 and then tour across the country, beginning in Newcastle upon Tyne and playing a week at 11 venues with the individual amateur groups. The company will return to Stratford in the summer, where the tour will culminate in a special Midsummer month of performances in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre featuring all the amateur actors from around the UK.
"A Midsummer Night's Dream is probably the play most of us begin with, so it made sense to choose this as a title for this unique celebratory production," Whyman said in the press release. "I am excited that we are going to be working with such an amazing range of people all over the country to make it truly a play for the nation. There's some fantastic and unexpected talent out there in the amateur theater world, and we've had the privilege to see so much of it over the last three years of Open Stages. It is a real treat to be able to bring the professional and amateur worlds together in this extraordinary tour."
A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Play for the Nation is a co-production between the Royal Shakespeare Company and amateur theater companies across the UK. This is an arrangement developed between the RSC and Equity.
October 2, 2014