How do we remember? Let us count the ways
Jamie Sherman Blinder
The Royal Shakespeare Company and the University of Michigan will work together to develop three new plays, including a reconstruction of a “lost” play credited to William Shakespeare and his contemporary, John Fletcher.
The world-acclaimed, England-based theatre company will be in Ann Arbor from March 20-31, marking their fourth visit to campus, and their first trip focused exclusively on the play development process.
“Our collaboration with The Royal Shakespeare Company reflects the high priority we place on the arts as a means to deepen our understanding of the human condition – and bring together people of all cultures,” said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman.
“The Royal Shakespeare Company will collaborate with University of Michigan literary and historical scholars while drawing upon the university’s many theatrical resources,” said Coleman. “This project illustrates how universities can play a vital role in the artistic process.”
In the last decade, The RSC, U-M and the University Musical Society shared a “groundbreaking partnership,” which helped elevate the company’s profile in Midwest while drawing on UMS’ entrepreneurial acumen, and the university’s academic resources.
“The partnership showed how a university and world-class cultural treasure like The RSC can work together for the public’s edification,” said UMS President Kenneth Fischer whose organization presented the RSC in extended residencies in 2001, 2003, and 2006 in partnership with the University.
“In these tough economic times, we all are looking for mutually beneficial ways to collaborate and our latest venture shows the power of cooperation,” said Fischer, who noted U-M’s Ross School of Business will provide lodging, meals, and rehearsal space at a special sponsor’s rate for the duration of The RSC’s visit.
The RSC and U-M collaboration includes 16 British and American actors, and a 9-member creative team, including three playwrights, director, and dramaturge. The goal is to develop and fine-tune the scripts, including characters, and dramatic verisimilitude.
In addition, U-M students in theatre and music will participate in the development of plays, working alongside The RSC renowned playwrights and directors.
“The plays are in a very early state of development,” said Jeremy Adams, The RSC producer. “Rather than ‘readings’ of the plays, we consider them ‘insights’ into the plays, which offers writers, actors and directors a chance to discuss the journey of contributing to the new work.”
Three plays in-development are:
Throughout The RSC visit to Ann Arbor, the creative team will work with U-M faculty with expertise in subjects pertinent to the plays.
Even in the anything-is-possible age of virtual reality and digital hocus pocus, the latest paleontological-like literary reconstruction of a Shakespeare play may seem inconceivable – or perhaps to some, dramaturgical sacrilege.
But through meticulous research from scholars, rigorous academic debate and creative reconstruction of characters and dialogue by a commissioned playwright, a refined bi-lingual version of “Cardenio” aims to evoke the spirit, appeal and magic of Shakespeare, said Michael Boyd, artistic director of The RSC.
Since the mid 1600s, the original author or authors and content of “Cardenio” have been open to speculation. Some scholars contend the play was first performed in 1613 by the King’s Men, a London-based theatre company. Several decades after Shakespeare’s death in 1616, authorship was attributed to Shakespeare and his contemporary, John Fletcher.
“Drawing on scholars and resources at the University of Michigan, we hope to restore a play that holds up to the most rigorous examinations,” said Boyd. “Our hope is that the merging of English and Spanish further expands the appeal of Shakespeare’s work to non-English speaking people who appreciate the beauty and inspiration of world drama.”
There will be three opportunities for faculty, students and UM community to attend what the Royal Shakespeare Company call Insights, which are ‘sharings’ from the in-development plays with the actors writers and directors.
Attendance will be open and free of charge.
Venue and time for the readings will be announced at a later date.
Jamie Sherman Blinder
Jamie Sherman Blinder