RSC Open Stages

13 September 2013

The RSC's Open Stages project works with 86 amateur companies to produce their own Shakespeare productions

Macbeth performed in a Cardiff Shopping Centre, Much Ado About Nothing performed by serving members of the Royal Air Force, The Tempest in a quarry in Durham, and Richard III performed in Leicester Cathedral by Leicester University students where the King's newly discovered body will be buried, are just four of the 90 productions that will be part of the UK's biggest amateur theatre project – Open Stages.

Having received nearly 200 applications from across the UK, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) along with 6 partner theatres will work with the 86 selected amateur groups to support them with mentoring and workshops to create their own RSC Open Stages production in their own venue. The project begins on the weekend of the 28 September 2013 when all 86 directors will come together for the first and only time in Stratford-upon-Avon to participate in two days of skills workshops led by the RSC's own team of theatre practitioners.

Just a few examples of the huge range of work being done by over 2,500 participants (the oldest being 80 and the youngest 8 years old), include the Royal Navy performing A Midsummer Night's Dream, Henry V in a Norman Castle, a Sci-fi Tempest in a village hall in Oxfordshire, a Gulf War set Titus Andronicus in Edinburgh, a female King Lear in London, and a Hamlet in the style of a Danish Crime Drama in St Andrews.

RSC Open Stages producer Ian Wainwright commented: 'The RSC is once again excited to continue to collaborate with just some of the million amateur theatre-makers in the UK. The RSC understands the skill, commitment, energy and passion it takes to make theatre happen. We therefore have a huge respect for those DIY, grassroots theatre-makers who create theatre in their spare time often on very limited resources. Open Stages looks to share some of the processes, techniques and ideas of professional theatre making, while allowing the RSC to learn about, and be inspired by, the work of people with a real passion for the craft of theatre.'

The most popular of Shakespeare's plays to be performed by the participants is Macbeth with 7 productions, followed Twelfth Night with 6 productions. Other productions include 6 modern plays inspired by Shakespeare, and 16 new plays inspired by Shakespeare and written or devised by the amateur companies involved.

The productions will be performed across the UK in a vast number of venues including 35 Theatres, 10 Village Halls, 7 parks and gardens, 6 Castles, 6 Town Halls, 6 Pubs, 5 Churches, 4 School Halls, 2 Community Centres, 2 Country Houses, 2 Universities, 2 Arts Centres, 2 Museums, 2 Pavilions, 1 Warehouse, 1 Barn, 1 Library, 1 Cathedral, 1 Island, 1 Coffee Shop, 1 Wood, 1 Campsite, 1 Bookshop, 1 Hotel and 1 Graveyard.

Open Stages 2013 – 2016 will focus on learning, with each amateur company receiving training, director mentoring, feedback and support from the RSC and partner theatres. The project is part of the RSC's commitment to transforming the relationship between amateur and professional theatres. Open Stages is the springboard for the recently announced 'Dream16', a nationwide tour of A Midsummer Night's Dream to celebrate the 400th anniversary of his death of Shakespeare on 23 April 2016. The production, which opens in Stratford-upon-Avon, will be co-produced with partner theatres and amateur companies in all twelve nations and regions of the UK. In every location, Bottom and the rude mechanicals will be played by a local amateur group, and Titania's fairy train by local schoolchildren.

For more information about the project, please go to  
Project hashtag: #RSCOpenStages

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Open Stages ran as part of the 2012 World Shakespeare Festival, but 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' practice. This led to the production of over 260 RSC Open Stages amateur Shakespeare productions performing everywhere from village halls to castles, to forests and supermarkets. 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.

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.

Open Stages is also supported by:
Voluntary Arts
NODA (National Operatic and Drama Association)
Little Theatre Guild
Drama Association Of Wales
Scottish Community Drama Association

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

Contact, Manchester, covering the North of England
Dundee Rep, covering Scotland
The Lyric Theatre, Belfast, covering Northern Ireland
Nuffield Theatre, Southampton, covering the South of England
The Questors Theatre, London, covering London and the surrounding area
Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon, covering the Midlands
Sherman Cymru, Cardiff, covering Wales and the adjacent area

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