One of the larger Shakespeare Festivals in the country, Shakespeare & Company was founded in 1978 by Tina Packer, its current Artistic Director and President. Born in England, Tina journeyed to the U.S. in the early 1970′s with the idea of creating and running a theatre company that merged the power suits of British actors and American actors: the spoken word and the physical body. Reinvigorating her sense of what Elizabethan theatre and acting constituted, Tina secured residency at novelist Edith Wharton’s beautiful turn-of-the-century estate, The Mount. In 2000, Tina and the Company purchased its new 30 acre home (with numerous buildings) at 70 Kemble Street in Lenox Center, one mile from the Mount, for $4.1 million, raising $5 million for the completion of Phase One in just one year.
Since moving to a new home in 2001, the performance seasons have earned both artistic praise and box office success. The runaway hit of the 2002 season, Golda’s Balcony by William Gibson, transferred to Boston for a two month run in early 2003 before moving to Broadway (a different production). Critical praise has been heaped upon such shows as King Lear, Lettice and Lovage and 2005′s Taming of The Shrew. Our Free Outdoor Bankside Festival is a major hit with families, and our free lectures other programs are not to be missed. We annually perform for upwards of 75,000 patrons, making us one of the major name attractions in Berkshire County.
“Shakespeare & Company continues to be one of the best troupes in Massachusetts, but the consistency was particularly impressive this year. Tina Packer and her Lenox-based company not only make Shakespeare our earthy contemporary but they also bring a classic elegance to contemporary plays…” – Boston Globe
The Company is also home to one of the largest theatre-in-education programs in the northeast. The Education Program reaches upward of 50,000 students annually with innovative performances, workshops, and residencies. In addition to core programming of the Fall Festival of Shakespeare and the Spring Tour, youth programs include an expanded Shakespeare & Young Company and a program for adjudicated youth offered in collaboration with the Berkshire Juvenile Court. The Company also conducts a summer institute for schoolteachers; and we’ve completed a multi-media digital study guide for Macbeth. Identified by the Arts Education Partnership, the GE Fund, the MacArthur Foundation, and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities as a “Champion of Change,” the Education Program is recognized as an innovative leader in the field of arts-in-education. Shakespeare & Company’s Education Program receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and numerous local arts councils and private foundations. We recently received a $50,000 grant from the Hearst Foundation aimed at education.
Shakespeare & Company also offers one of the most unique and extensive actor training programs by a regional theatre in the country. Theatre professionals from all over the world come to train with the Company in Month-Long Intensives. The Company recently introduced new workshops that include Week-Long Intensives, Text Workshops (a master-class which specializes in an in-depth experience with Shakespeare’s text), and Clown/Mask Workshops. The Linklater voice technique, text analysis, Alexander movement, fight, dance, clown, and Tina’s own singular exercises, including Dropping-In, are combined to offer a personal exploration of the relationship between the actor and audience. Further training is offered through the Summer Performance Institute, as well as through individual summer workshops. Past training participants include Karen Allen, Gillian Barge, Jennifer Grant, Karen Grassle, Joe Morton, Andie MacDowell, Bronson Pinchot, Anna Deavere Smith, Keanu Reeves, Alicia Silverstone, Diana Quick, Courtney Vance, Sigourney Weaver, and Raquel Welch.
In addition to planning the world’s first American Center for Shakespeare Performance and Learning at its new home, Shakespeare & Company envisions offering programming year-round in the Berkshires, including performances, education programs, actor/teacher training, and corporate, seminar, workshop, lecture, broadcasting/recording, and accommodation services.
The Rose Playhouse Project U.S.A. One of the centerpieces of this vision is the re-creation of the world’s only historically accurate Rose Playhouse on the property, surrounded by its own Elizabethan village. The original Rose was built in 1587 on the south bank of London’s Thames River, one of the first playhouses built in England. It is also the theatre in which Shakespeare’s earliest plays were performed, including Henry VI and Titus Andronicus. Modern audiences are probably most familiar with the Rose Playhouse as the theatre depicted in the Academy Award-winning film, Shakespeare in Love. In shape, the Rose is very similar to London’s Globe Theatre, the larger, cylindrical, open-air theatre that opened in 1599, not 100 yards from Philip Henslowe’s pioneering Rose. The rebuilt Globe in London is now the second most popular tourist destination in that culture-rich city to date.
The Company’s research phase for the project was completed in 2002. The Rose Design Team, made up of British and American architects, builders, designers, archaeologists and scholars, has produced a stunning report based on their analysis of the archaeology, and cartographic and documentary evidence that exists on the Rose Playhouse. The team has now embarked on the Design Development Phase of the Rose Playhouse Project. In this phase, the design of the playhouse and its surrounds will undergo significant refinement, with detailed drawings, animated walk-throughs, and architectural models. A preview of the design development work was made available to east coast audiences in 2003 with a special exhibit at the Boston Architectural Center.