Open Stages 2013

13 May 2013

Royal Shakespeare Company's nationwide amateur project Open Stages continues with Esmee Fairbairn funding

The RSC's hugely successful Open Stages project engaging with amateur theatre-makers returns this week.

The RSC and its professional partner theatres are once again looking for amateur companies from across the UK to work with them to produce their own Shakespeare or Shakespeare-themed production in their own venue, hired hall or outdoor site.

The popular nationwide project ran as part of the 2012 World Shakespeare Festival, but actually started life in July 2010 when the RSC joined forces with nine partner theatres across the UK and ran a national programme of 'skills exchange' workshops and events to develop amateur theatre-makers' practise. This led to the production of over 260 RSC Open Stages amateur Shakespeare productions performing everywhere from village halls to castles, to forests and super markets. Many of the productions were then performed in showcase events at the professional partner theatres and at the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon as part of the World Shakespeare Festival.

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation has renewed their generous support of the project, which will continue through to the planned celebrations in 2016 to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.

So far, the RSC has worked with 7,200 amateur theatre-makers and 263 amateur groups have participated in the project. The ages of participants ranged from 6 to 90 years old, and included mobile phone salesmen, serving soldiers and sailors, librarians, psychiatric nurses, supermarket workers, estate agents and primary school teachers.

This new phase of the project will focus on learning, with each RSC Open Stages amateur company receiving training, director mentoring, feedback and support from the RSC and its professional partner theatres. To do this the project will reduce the numbers of partner theatres (7 across the UK) and amateur groups (100), allowing an increase in the level of engagement and collaboration with each amateur company.

Having established an invigorating and mutually beneficial relationship with amateur theatre- makers over the past three years, the RSC are keen to develop it further in this next exciting phase of the project.

Ian Wainwright the project producer said:

'We've been incredibly impressed with the commitment, creativity and talent of the amateur theatre-makers we met. We found that making theatre at a grass roots level requires a degree of passion, practicality and resourcefulness that demands respect from even the most seasoned professional.

This time round we want to deepen our engagement by working with fewer groups but in more depth. This will allow us to work more collaboratively, offering more opportunities for skills workshops, mentoring, and professional feedback. We also want to focus more on amateur directors. As the leaders of productions it is they who will introduce new ideas and ways of working. All this will allow us to have a real impact on the work being made.'

RSC Executive Director Catherine Mallyon said of the extension of Open Stages:

'UK theatres possess a tremendous resource of highly skilled professional theatre makers who value and respect the work of amateur societies and community groups and recognise how much we can all learn and develop by sharing knowledge and skills.

'The amateur sector often provides the places where we first encounter and fall in love with theatre, as an audience member or as a practitioner. Open Stages offers us the opportunity to help make this encounter an even more exciting, memorable experience that keeps audiences and participants coming back for more. It is these experiences that lead to a lifelong passion for theatre, both amateur and professional.'

Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive of Esmée Fairbairn Foundation commented:

'Open Stages has begun to transform relationships between professional theatres and amateur companies, exploding myths and stereotypes held by both sides. We are delighted to continue our support of the project and look forward to engaging with the wider theatre sector in partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company.'

Once again the RSC is partnered in the project by some of the country's leading professional theatres including:

The Lyric Theatre, Belfast, covering Northern Ireland
Sherman Cymru, Cardiff, covering Wales and the adjacent area
Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon, covering the Midlands
Nuffield Theatre, Southampton, covering the South of England

The project will also see the RSC renew their partnership with Questors theatre in London, covering London and the surrounding area. Questors are one of the Country's leading building-based amateur theatre companies.

Partner theatres in Scotland and the North of England will be announced shortly.

More details and information on how to get involved in the next phase of RSC Open Stages go to http://www.rsc.org.uk/explore/projects/open-stages/

For further information, please contact Philippa.harland@rsc.org.uk or look at www.rsc.org.uk/explore/projects/open-stages/

Notes to Editors

RSC Open Stages is supported by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Esmée Fairbairn Foundation aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities throughout the UK both now and in the future. We do this by funding the charitable work of organisations with the ideas and ability to achieve positive change.

The Foundation is one of the largest independent grant-makers in the UK. We make grants of £30 - £35 million annually towards a wide range of work within the arts, education and learning, the environment and social change. We also operate a £21 million Finance Fund which invests in organisations that aim to deliver both a financial return and a social benefit.

www.esmeefairbairn.org.uk

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