|RSC Will Showcase Its Creative and Educational Expertise
January 16, 2008
Contact: Bill Giduz
(A complete schedule of the 2008 Davidson Residency events is available at www.davidson.edu/Shakespeare. Performance tickets for the work in progress are $30, and go on sale to the general public on Monday, January 28, 2008. Call 704-894-2135 from 10-4 weekdays for ticket reservations and information, or buy online at www.davidson.edu/tickets)
Rather than stage a classic work by its namesake, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) will create a new play during its upcoming fifth residency at Davidson College. Students and other members of the college community will have the rare opportunity to witness the creative process as a playwright, director, and cast develop a play inspired by the Cold War space-race that culminated with America's Apollo 11 moon mission in 1969.
Davidson is collaborating with the RSC to develop the new play by British playwright Rona Munro. Munro will arrive on campus January 20 with only preliminary scripting, and will spend the four-week residency in intensive development of the play with a cast of ten actors (five from the UK and five from the US), and director Roxana Silbert.
Working together at Davidson, Silbert and Munro will build the new play day-by-day in the rehearsal room, tailoring the story based on the skill of the actors, the direction of rehearsals, and input from members of the Davidson community. The residency will culminate in three "work-in-progress" performances on the weekend of February 15.
On the same weekend the college will host an academic symposium titled "Imagining History: Shakespeare and His Legacy," which concerns the creative process of fictionalizing history. The keynote speaker on the morning of Saturday, February 16, will be Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, author of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Other speakers and panelists will include historical novelist, non-fiction writer, and literary critic Thomas Mallon, Shakespearean Phyllis Rackin from the University of Pennsylvania, and scholars of modern drama Laurence Senelick from Tufts University and Mary Karen Dahl from Florida State University.
Symposium events, the workshop productions, and many other residency events will be open to the public, but tickets will be required for some. For complete information, visit www.davidson.edu/Shakespeare.
Playwright Rona Munro has written award-winning plays for theatre, radio, and television and film since 1983. In 2006 Munro's The Indian Boy, a modern response to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, was performed to popular and critical acclaim in Stratford-upon-Avon as part of the RSC's Complete Works Festival. Iron was a hit at the 2002 Edinburgh Festival, and went on to London and America's Manhattan Theatre Club. Munro has just completed her second film collaboration with British director Ken Loach's company, and is currently under commission to the Manhattan Theatre Club and the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.
The Davidson production will be her fifth collaboration with Silbert. Most recently they worked together on Munro's latest play, Long Time Dead, which opened at the Drum theatre in Plymouth, before a successful run at the Traverse Theatre during the Edinburgh festival 2007.
Director Roxana Silbert has worked extensively in British theatre and radio. She is artistic director of Paines Plough, an international touring theatre company specializing in new writing, and was literary director at the Traverse Theatre (2001-2004) and associate director at the Royal Court (1998-2000). Joining Munro and Silbert in Davidson on the RSC creative team will be Jeanie O'Hare (RSC literary manager), George Richmond-Scott (voice) and Lucy Cullingford (movement). The cast comprises five British and five American actors. Those from the UK are Michael Colgan, Jon Foster, Lloyd Hutchinson, Jan Pearson, and David Sibley. Those from the United States are Charles Goforth, Russell G. Jones, Deirdre O'Connell, Alexa Scott-Flaherty and Lauren Walsh Singerman. The five Americans are associate actors of Labyrinth Theater in New York, which was established in 1992, and is now led by John Gould Rubin, Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Ortiz. The RSC and Labyrinth Theater share an enthusiasm for collaborative, ensemble theatre-making.
Members of the cast and creative team will be welcomed to campus at a reception on January 21. In addition to rehearsals for the play, they will contribute in several ways to the academic life of the community. Many will present guest lectures in about two-dozen regular Davidson classes, including courses in film, Shakespeare, theatre, and voice. RSC Literary Manager Jeanie O'Hare will discuss how the RSC is encouraging playwrights towards a new spirit of epic playwriting. Playwright Rona Munro will speak with advanced writing students about careers in professional writing. RSC producer Jeremy Adams will discuss careers in arts administration.
Several informal gatherings and a screening of the film The Right Stuff, which concerns the Apollo 11 mission, will provide additional opportunities for students to interact with RSC members.
Dana Professor of English Cynthia Lewis, a coordinator for the residency at Davidson, said the production of a new dramatic work by the RSC pays homage to the Shakespearean tradition. "The RSC wants to draw connections between early modern drama and contemporary drama," she said. "Their approach is that modern playwrights should plunder Shakespeare for strategies and elements adaptable to their own drama. This is one of many ways Shakespeare can be kept alive."
Director Roxana Silbert said she expects to arrive at Davidson with a "dirty draft" of the play-a selection of scenes that may or may not add up to a complete narrative. During the first few rehearsals, she and the voice and movement directors will lead the cast in exercises aimed at bringing the company together and finding a "shared vocabulary."
Silbert and Munro are also keen to discuss American political, social and cultural history with Davidson faculty, and talk with students about their perspective on the space race, which occurred before they were born. Silbert said, "By the second week, I would like to be putting scenes up on their feet to see how they work. We will also be working with the movement director to find a physical language for the play-particularly the movement from one scene to another. The voice coach will have his work cut out helping people get to grips with the myriad of accents involved."
She expects each actor will play several parts, so work on characterization will be important. Commenting on the days leading up to the 'work in progress' performances, Silbert said, "We will have to be flexible in being able to respond to script changes right up to the last minute, which is why we cast with actors who are used to working in new plays."
Lewis noted that the subject of the new work should capture the interest not only of Davidson theatre students, but also a broad spectrum of political science and history students. The creative process and large number of public events will also give students and others a valuable understanding of the contemporary mission of the RSC. Lewis explained, "We won't have a major production of a Shakespearean play as we have in past residencies, but the content of the new work and the process of its creation make this in many ways the most truly educational residency we've enjoyed yet."
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country.
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Posted By: Bill Giduz