Celebrating Shakespeare's birthday with the launch of the World Shakespeare Festival

Saturday 21 April – The RSC welcomes the World Shakespeare Festival to Stratford-upon-Avon with events for the whole family.

As part of Stratford-upon-Avon's annual Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations, taking place on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 April, the Royal Shakespeare Company will launch the World Shakespeare Festival.

A celebration of Shakespeare as the world's playwright, the World Shakespeare Festival is produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), and is the biggest celebration of Shakespeare ever staged.

In Stratford-upon-Avon between April and October 2012 the RSC is presenting 12 new productions of its own, some of which reflect the rich mix of cultures within British society. Actors from the USA, Mexico, Russia, Iraq and Brazil will also perform in Stratford-upon-Avon as part of the Festival, with a number of the productions going on to play elsewhere in the UK.

On Saturday 21 April the RSC will offer a fantastic range of activities for the whole family. Outside the theatres there will a world music stage, featuring live performances from artists from around the globe; stage fighting workshops; fake scars and bruises created by the RSC Wigs and Make-Up team; storytelling sessions given by leading storyteller Jan Blake; and the chance to help create a 'Sweet Swan of Avon' and cygnets out of paper. Inside the theatres visitors can go on a backstage tour, explore the 36 metre high tower and numerous free exhibitions. Full details below.

The RSC's programme of events is only part of the weekend's celebrations, which also include the annual Birthday Procession on Saturday 21 April.

Activities taking place in and around the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on Saturday 21 April:

Music on the Bancroft Terrace
including Portuguese Fado, Japanese Taiko percussion and a Flamenco band.

Weston Square Balcony
a vocal quartet singing English Madrigals.

Free Family Activities in Weston Square
11am-4pm for under 10's
in the Family Marquee: 30 minute storytelling sessions given by leading storyteller, Jan Blake (11.30am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm), a storm workshop (12.30pm), and a stage fighting demonstration (2.30pm).

There's also the chance to help create a 'Sweet Swan of Avon' and cygnets out of paper on the Weston Square steps between 11am-4pm.

Demonstration/Workshop Marquee in the Swan Gardens
Those taking part can learn more about the use of stage make up in Blood, Guts and Gore (11.30am, suitable for all ages), how to pull a punch in a stage fighting demonstration (12.30pm and 3.30pm, suitable for ages 10+), or an actor's technique in workshops with the RSC's Movement (1.30pm, suitable for ages 12+) and Voice (2.30pm, suitable for ages 12+) departments.

Sonnet Ferry
12noon – 4.30pm
RSC actors will entertain those on the chain ferry with the sounds of Shakespeare's Sonnets as they travel across the River Avon. (50p – pay at the Sonnet Ferry on the day).

Inside the Building
Explore the RSC's theatres with backstage tours* at 9.15am and 11.15am and a Front of House Tour at 5.15pm, or follow one of the RSC's self-guided Family Trails to explore the public areas of the theatre. The Tower*, offering panoramic views of Stratford, is open between 10.00am-12.20pm and 4.30-6.40pm. There is also the opportunity to enjoy a number of free exhibitions including: Shakespeare's Stories, George Chakravarthi's Thirteen and Stan's Cafe's Of All the People In All The World. Interact with Squid Soup's Living Walls in the colonnade or be offended by Shakespeare's words in the Insult Chair.

Around the Town
12noon – 4pm
Shakespeare themed Street Theatre performance from the Natural Theatre Company.

The first productions to open in the World Shakespeare Festival, which will be up and running by the Birthday Celebrations weekend, include Twelfth Night, The Comedy of Errors and The Tempest in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and Richard III and King John in the Swan Theatre. Members of the Iraqi Theatre Company will be in town for the weekend, prior to performances of Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad, opening on 26 April.

On Sunday 22 April the Shakespeare Service (11am-12.15pm) at Holy Trinity Church will include music and readings, performed by members of the RSC company and the RSC band.

Geraldine Collinge, Director of Events and Exhibitions at the RSC, said:
“Shakespeare's Birthday is always a special time in Stratford-upon-Avon's and the RSC's calendar. In this Olympic year, it also marks the launch of the World Shakespeare Festival. With an exciting mix of activities for all ages, we're hoping to give visitors a flavour of what the RSC and the Festival is all about.”

More information can be found at www.rsc.org.uk/shakespearesbirthday and www.shakespearesbirthday.org.uk

*Theatre tours and The Tower incur a charge.

Unless indicated all RSC activities are free and offered on a first come first served basis. Pre-booking is not available.

For more press information please contact:
Dean Asker
RSC Press Ofice
01789 412660, 0778 9937759

Notes to editors

The World Shakespeare Festival (WSF) is a celebration of Shakespeare as the world's playwright, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, in an unprecedented collaboration with leading UK and international arts organizations, and with Globe to Globe, a major international programme produced by Shakespeare's Globe. It runs from 12 April to November and forms part of London 2012 Festival which is the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad, bringing leading artists from all over the world together in a UK-wide festival in the summer of 2012.

For further details www.worldshakespearefestival.org.uk

The World Shakespeare Festival is supported by BP, as Founding Presenting Partner, and by the National Lottery through the Olympic Lottery Distributor and Arts Council England.

Social media links at www.facebook.com/worldshakespearefestival and www.twitter.com/wsf2012

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