Celebrating Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday

3 April 2014

Celebrating Shakespeare's 450th Birthday:

  • First twitter interview by an RSC Artistic Director to take place on 23 April
  • RSC Shakespeare Toolkit for Primary Teachers sent to every state-maintained primary school in England
  • First of a series of new films from behind the scenes of current productions of Henry IV Parts I and II released

On this day in 1366 Henry IV King of England was born, and to coincide with this, and in the run up to Shakespeare's birthday on the 23 April, the Royal Shakespeare Company releases the first of a series of films from the new productions of Henry IV Parts I and II, and announces the first ever live twitter interview by an RSC Artistic Director to take place on 23 April which will be Shakespeare's 450th birthday.

And throughout April primary school children across England can join the birthday celebrations by experiencing Shakespeare through the eyes of some of the world's most prominent actors - thanks to a new toolkit from the Royal Shakespeare Company which uses RSC rehearsal room techniques to unlock and explore Shakespeare's plays.

Meet the Actors: series of new films behind the scenes of Henry IV Parts I and II

Henry IV Parts I and II directed by Gregory Doran opens in Stratford-upon-Avon on Wednesday 16 April before being broadcast live to cinemas and streamed into schools, touring the UK and transferring to the Barbican in London. The series of films will be released over the forthcoming weeks and provide an insight into the characters of play by the actors who have developed their roles since the start of the year when rehearsals began. The first of these released today is Antony Sher on Falstaff

Live Twitter interview and fireworks

As part of the RSC's special celebrations for Shakespeare's 450th birthday, Artistic Director Gregory Doran will be taking to Twitter for the very first time to answer questions live from 10am on Wednesday 23 April 2014, submitted using #AskGreg. Gregory will answer questions via the RSC's twitter account @TheRSC for one hour from Shakespeare's hometown Stratford-upon-Avon. Questions can be submitted from today, and as many questions as possible will be answered. Named by the Sunday Time as 'one of the great Shakespearians of his generation', having directed over half of Shakespeare's canon and written 'The Shakespeare Almanac', this will be a rare opportunity for people to have any questions they have about Shakespeare's work answered in 140 characters.

On the evening of Wednesday 23 April the RSC will continue celebrations with a spectacular firework display. Taking inspiration from Ben Jonson's 'Star of Poets' description of William Shakespeare, the RSC will launch fireworks from the top of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre including a specially constructed image of Shakespeare's face, after the evening performance of Henry IV Part I. Emergency Exit Arts, one of the country's best and most experienced providers of pyrotechnics, will create this special anniversary event.

RSC Shakespeare Toolkit for Primary Teachers

As a result of a grant from the Department for Education and to coincide with Shakespeare's 450th birthday celebrations, the RSC Shakespeare Toolkit for Primary Teachers has been sent to every state-maintained primary school in England.

Building on over 60 years of work by RSC Education, the toolkit promotes an active, 'playful' approach to Shakespeare's plays and uses practical techniques developed in the RSC's rehearsal rooms to help primary age children tune into the language, characters and stories. It is designed to support primary schools and teachers who want to develop their repertoire of Shakespeare teaching approaches.

Commenting on the Toolkit, one of the many resources created by RSC Education to support the teaching of Shakespeare, Jacqui O'Hanlon, Director of RSC Education, said:

'For over 60 years RSC Education has worked with teachers and young people all over the world. Our overwhelming experience has been that when we introduce primary age children to Shakespeare's work, they are more open to the language, characters and stories as they progress into secondary education.

Children are masters of play and by introducing Shakespeare in playful ways we can tap into their imaginations and ignite their curiosity about this extraordinary body of work. The toolkit is a practical guide to teaching Shakespeare in fun and stimulating ways. It is a vehicle for RSC Education to share everything we've learnt over the years with teachers so that many more young people can enjoy and be inspired by Shakespeare's work.'

The distribution of the primary toolkit follows on from the success of the original RSC Shakespeare Toolkit for Teachers which was sent to all state-funded secondary schools in March 2013. An online survey revealed that the Toolkit had a positive impact on teaching with 97% of the teachers rating the content as excellent or very good. The same survey also indicated that 94% of teachers thought that the material would also be suitable for primary school students.

Sarah Stanbridge, a teacher at St. Mary's RC High School in Hereford, said:

'…responses have been amazing. They're [the students] loving it, and their level of thinking has surprised me…It just shows that students can respond at a higher level than we sometimes expect, given the right materials and stimulus and approach. After nearly 20 years in the classroom, it's great to be so fired up again.'

For further information, please contact philippa.harland@rsc.org.uk 0207 845 0512 or amy.belson@rsc.org.uk 01789 412622

Press performances:
Henry IV Part I Wednesday 16 April 2014, 1pm
Henry IV Part II Wednesday 16 April 2014, 7pm

Royal Shakespeare Theatre: Until 6 September 2014
Live from Stratford-upon-Avon cinema screening: Wednesday 14 May 2014

Royal Shakespeare Theatre: Until 6 September 2014
Live from Stratford-upon-Avon cinema screening: Wednesday 18 June 2014

Tickets: www.rsc.org.uk or 0844 800 1110

The two parts of Henry IV will play at Newcastle Theatre Royal 25 September – 5 October 2014 and tour the UK from 14 October – 15 November 2014.

Both productions will play at the Barbican from 29 November 2014 – 24 January 2015: https://www.barbican.org.uk/theatre/event-detail.asp?ID=15390

For cinema listings and booking visit onscreen.rsc.org.uk

Schools wanting to sign up for streaming direct to the classroom should also visit onscreen.rsc.org.uk

RSC Primary Shakespeare Toolkit for Teachers has now been sent to all state-maintained primary schools. For further information about the toolkit and the work of RSC Education, please visit http://www.rsc.org.uk/education/

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