Open Stages

22 February 2011

The Royal Shakespeare Company counts down to RSC Open Stages - the UK's biggest amateur theatre project.

RSC Open Stages is generously supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

- Only six weeks to go before the 31 March deadline for amateur theatre companies to sign up to this unique project

- Amateur theatre groups from Edinburgh to Penzance have already submitted proposals for a huge variety of Shakespeare themed productions

As the RSC's 50th birthday season kicks off in Stratford-upon-Avon, amateur theatre companies from across the UK are preparing their own Shakespeare themed productions for the RSC's Open Stages project, beginning a journey that for some may lead to them performing at the RSC next year.

This unprecedented collaboration with eight regional/national theatres and organisations representing amateurs from across the UK has seen applications from all corners of the country, with groups from across the UK - and even the USA and Germany - proposing an awe-inspiring array of imaginative takes on Shakespeare.

This huge range of projects already entered includes a production of The Tempest performed in a Sea Fort in Weymouth Harbour, a Star Wars inspired Twelfth Night in Huddersfield, a flashmob version of Romeo and Juliet in Whitley Bay, a performance of Shakespeare inspired new plays at the Dirty Duck pub in Stratford, an all female Hamlet in Milton Keynes, and the Royal Navy's own theatre group choosing to perform the very apt Much Ado About Nothing on their base in Portsmouth – just a tiny taste of the programme of productions in the pipeline.

Groups from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and New York will all be working on productions to be performed as part of RSC Open Stages and will be supported by skill sharing and advice from the RSC and its partner theatres in the project.

Ian Wainwright, Producer for RSC Open Stages, said: 'We are really surprised and delighted by the extent of applications from all corners of the UK from village halls to ruined castles, from community centres to disused swimming pools. The innovation, commitment and ambition of the entries so far is incredible. Some of the amateur companies involved have a great tradition of performing Shakespeare dating back before the founding of the RSC itself. Others are using the project as an opportunity to try performing Shakespeare for the first time.'

The 9 regional theatres involved will each showcase productions, with Open Stages culminating in a national celebration of amateur Shakespeare when a selection of participants are invited to perform their productions at the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon as part of the World Shakespeare Festival, performing alongside the Company's own festival productions and those from theatre companies from around the world.

A full list of all RSC Open Stages participants will be announced at the end of March 2011.

Notes to editors

  • Esmée Fairbairn Foundation was established in 1961 by Ian Fairbairn as a memorial to his wife Esmée. Today it is one of the largest independent grant-making foundations in the UK. The foundation aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities in the UK both now and in the future. It funds the charitable activities of organisations that have the ideas and ability to achieve change for the better and likes to consider work which others may find hard to fund, perhaps because it breaks new ground, appears too risky, requires core funding, or needs a more unusual form of financial help such as a loan. It also takes initiatives where new thinking is required or where there are important unexplored opportunities. The foundation aims to commit £25 million annually towards a wide range of work. Its primary interests are in the UK's cultural life, education and learning, the natural environment and enabling disadvantaged people to participate more fully in society.
  • Partner theatres in the project include the National Theatre of Scotland, the Lyric Theatre Belfast, the Sage Gateshead, Contact Theatre Manchester, Hall for Cornwall, The Nuffield Theatre Southampton, the New Wolsey Ipswich, Questors theatre in London and the RST in Stratford-upon-Avon. Partner amateur organisations include Voluntary Arts, National Operatic and Drama Association (NODA), the All England Theatre Festival, Little Theatre Guild, International Theatre Exchange, Drama Association of Wales, Scottish Community Drama Association, and The Bear Pit in Stratford-upon-Avon.

For updated information on the project visit

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