A timeline of key dates from our history - from building the first theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon to today.

The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre opened on our site next to the River Avon in 1879, after local brewer, Charles Flower donated the land and launched a campaign to build a theatre in the town of Shakespeare's birth. 

After the original theatre was destroyed by fire, the New Shakespeare Memorial Theatre opened its doors on an adjacent site in 1932, designed by Elisabeth Scott.

The Royal Shakespeare Company was founded in 1961 by Peter Hall, based in Stratford-upon-Avon and the theatre was renamed the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

A technician in front of several screens managing a Live From Stratford broadcast
Our first Live from Stratford-upon-Avon production was broadcast to cinemas and schools across the world in 2013.
Photo by Lucy Barriball © RSC Browse and license our images

2024 Andrew Leveson becomes Executive Director.

2023 The Swan Theatre reopens following the pandemic and a refurbishment, with Hamnet. Daniel Evans and Tamara Harvey become Co-Artistic Directors.

2022 The world premiere of My Neighbour Totoro at the Barbican.

2021 We reopen after our temporary closure for the pandemic and build the Lydia & Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre in the Swan Gardens.

2020 The pandemic closes our theatres so we keep Shakespeare’s work alive online. Our Homework Help sees 100,000+ young people receive advice from RSC actors and alumni.

2019 The world premiere of new musical The Boy in the Dress.

2018 Matilda The Musical's UK and Ireland tour begins.

2017 A season of Rome plays staged in Stratford and the Barbican, and we perform the first of our translated Chinese classics, Snow in Midsummer.

2016 Four hundred years after Shakespeare died, we open a new The Other Place with a studio theatre, rehearsal rooms and Costume Store, and put the first live digital avatar on stage with The Tempest.

2015 Matilda The Musical came to Australia, opening at the Lyric Theatre, Sydney in August.

2014 We marked the 100th anniversary of the First World War, commissioning a new play The Christmas Truce, and celebrated major roles for women in our Roaring Girls season.

2013 We begin our Live from Stratford-upon-Avon broadcasts to cinemas and schools across the world starting with Richard II on 13 November.

2012 Gregory Doran becomes Artistic Director and Catherine Mallyon becomes Executive Director. Gregory pledges to stage all 36 plays in the First Folio, making every play an event.

2012 World Shakespeare Festival - part of the London Olympics. We invited UK and international artists and producers to explore Shakespeare as the world's playwright, reaching more than 1.8 million people with 69 productions, 263 amateur shows, 28 digital commissions and films, and much more. 

2011 Residency at Park Avenue Armory for Lincoln Center Festival - five Shakespeare productions were performed by a single RSC company of actors in a specially constructed thrust-stage auditorium. For the first time theatregoers in the US were able to experience our theatre just as they would have seen it in Stratford-upon-Avon.

2011 We celebrate our 50th Birthday Season

2011 The Queen officially opens the transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre

2010 Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres reopen for preview events and activities

2008 Michael Boyd's cycle of Shakespeare's eight History plays transfers to the Roundhouse in London

2007-8 The Histories - a project to stage all of Shakespeare's history plays using the same company of 34 actors playing all 264 roles, in the temporary Courtyard Theatre, culminating in the Glorious Moment when audiences could see all eight plays over one long weekend.

An aerial view of the demolition of the auditorium
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is demolished as part of our 2007-2010 theatre transformation.
Photo by Stewart Hemley © RSC Browse and license our images

2007 Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Swan Theatre closed for construction work to begin

2006-7 Complete Works Festival - the first time that all 37 plays, the sonnets and the long poems have been performed in one place. We produced 23 productions ourselves, with more than 30 visiting companies, 17 from overseas, including Yukio Ninagawa's Japanese Titus Andronicus, Macbeth in Polish and Twelfth Night in Russian.

2006 The Courtyard Theatre opens as a temporary 1,000-seat theatre

2003 Michael Boyd appointed as Artistic Director

2001 Feasibility Study recommends the demolition of the 1932 RST. We leave the Barbican

1996 We begin working on plans for redeveloping our Stratford site

1991 Purpose-built new The Other Place opens

1991 Adrian Noble becomes Artistic Director

1986 Swan Theatre created from shell of the 1879 theatre

1986 Terry Hands becomes Artistic Director

1982 London operations move to the Barbican, leased from the City of London

1974 The Other Place created from a former store/rehearsal room in Stratford

1968 Trevor Nunn becomes Artistic Director

1963 First Arts Council subsidy

1961 Chartered name of the corporation and the Stratford theatre become the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

1958 Peter Hall becomes Artistic Director. Aldwych Theatre leased in London and Stratford/London operations begin

1948 Anthony Quayle becomes Artistic Director

1932 New Shakespeare Memorial Theatre opens, designed by Elisabeth Scott

1926 Auditorium and stage destroyed by fire. Chairman Sir Archibald Flower raises rebuilding funds, mostly in the USA

1925 Royal Charter granted to the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre on 50th anniversary

1913 First tour to the USA

1879 Shakespeare Memorial Theatre opens

1875 Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Ltd. Incorporated is created