Workshops and Discussions
Some of the highlights of the weeks are the workshops and discussions with Royal Shakespeare Company (RCS) staff such as voice trainers, actors, and directors. They shed light on what acting and staging a play may include and how hard and strenuous but also stimulating the actors’ work can be. You will get an idea of how they train their voices, of their techniques for preparing their parts, and of how they develop their characters.
Workshops and discussions are certainly the most creative and active part of the course and complement your academic perspective on Shakespeare by practical, physical, and emotional drama experience. You will gain an exciting new perspective on Shakespeare’s plays; the literary text on a page, which we are used to read quietly for ourselves, is complemented and completed by the spoken and enacted words on stage. The discussions with the RSC members are equally informative and entertaining. Getting to know actors and actresses in person is certainly a special experience. Besides, Stratford-upon-Avon being such a small place, it is very likely that you meet them again in town or in a pub.
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre
The RST is the main theatre used by the RSC, and the largest. The present building of the RST originated in the one opened as the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in 1879, in which festival performances were given for short periods each year. It burned down in 1926, but was reopened in 1932. The playhouse finally acquired its name – Royal Shakespeare Theatre – in 1961. It is designed for approximately 1450 people. In 2010 it was reopened after an extensive renovation called the Transformation project. The most important change was the inclusion of a thrust stage which brings actors and audiences much closer together.
The Swan Theatre
The Swan Theatre, designed to reflect a Jacobean style theatre, is an impressively atmospheric galleried playhouse that comprises around 470 spectators. It was built in 1986 in the shell of the former Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. The initial purpose of the Swan Theatre was to present infrequently produced plays by Renaissance and Restoration playwrights, but in recent years, the programme has been broadened to also include more recent classics and new writing. The seats are situated around the stage in the shape of a horseshoe. Hence, the audience is involved with the events on stage to a considerable extent, being very close to the cast. The RSC often incorporates the offstage area in their performances so that the boundaries between cast and audience begin to collapse.
The Other Place
This third theatre is the location for the RSC’s more experimental and small-scale work starting from 1974 on. During the Transformation, The Other Place became part of the Courtyard Theatre, which functioned as the main stage for the length of the renovation. Reopening in March 2016, in time for the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, the 200-seat theatre is once more known by its original name.