Royal Shakespeare Community

When we temporarily closed our theatre doors we invited our community to work with us and keep Shakespeare’s work alive. Meet some of the people who make up the Royal Shakespeare Community.

 

Sayana, Northampton

“Theatre has helped me realise that the performing arts isn’t some sector that is only possible to succeed in if you have money or power."

 

“Being a person of colour, theatre has helped me realise that the performing arts isn’t some sector that is only possible to succeed in if you have money or power."

Sayana is from Northampton and is a member of the RSC Youth Advisory Board.  

"Theatre, for me personally, has been an opportunity for me to relax, and forget about the outside world and the pressures of everyday life. I am a very academic person, so being creative has allowed me to have a break from school work, and it has done wonders for my mental wellbeing, and my self-esteem. My confidence has skyrocketed, allowing me not only to perform Romeo and Juliet at four primary schools in Northampton with my cast, but join Debate Club at school, and eventually be selected for the Debate team. Also, being a person of colour, it has helped me realise that the performing arts isn’t some sector that is only possible to succeed in if you have money or power."

Read Sayana's blog

Rufaro, Stratford-upon-Avon

"Theatre means a community where people can come together to enjoy something which has been created to educate and entertain."

Rufaro headshot 

Rufaro Mada is a founding member of our Youth Advisory Board (established in January 2019) and previously attended Stratford College. He is currently studying at the Italia Conti Drama School.

"Theatre to me means a community where people can come together to enjoy something which has been created to educate and entertain. It helps me release energy and allows me to develop as a person.

"I want theatre to be an accessible and more diverse community. At the moment there is no equilibrium between the different communities accessing the arts and I hope we begin to involve those communities and sustain the relationships. I also want theatre tickets to be more accessible to everyone, currently the average ticket price for a show in the West End is £52.17 which is a major factor in the lack of diversity of people we have walk in to theatres."

James, Stratford-upon-Avon

“When a young person gets it for the first time – they realise it’s not just posh old fashioned poetry.”

james  

James is an A-Level student in Stratford-upon-Avon School and has been a member of the RSC’s Youth Advisory Board since it began in 2019.

"My involvement with the RSC has also really helped me to make a difference in my community, mainly in my school. The RSC invited me to be a Shakespeare Ambassador which involved me promoting Shakespeare through whatever medium we thought would be most effective, mainly to younger audiences. This allowed me to show other people how interesting and fun the stereotypically ‘boring’ Shakespeare can be. I did this through a Key Stage 3 Lunchtime Drama club, which I held once a week.

"The arts matter to me for many reasons. They bring generations together, spreading a message or a story over centuries that is relevant to anyone. The arts also allow me to express myself, ideas, opinions and dreams through entertainment. Working in a team to create a bigger picture, where every single person is needed to make it work is also such a great feeling. With the arts anything is possible!"


Read James's blog

Ella, Hull

"Seeing other people of colour on stages across the country is incredibly inspiring."

Ella  

Ella is a student from Hull and a member of the RSC Youth Advisory Board.  

"As a black person, seeing other people of colour on stages across the country is incredibly inspiring.

"It shows that the RSC care so much about diversity. As a member of the YAB, I am proud of the diversity we have accomplished there. I have often been the only black person in a room of actors, but that isn’t the case in the RSC." 

Read Ella's blog

Joseph, Stratford-upon-Avon

Contributing to the work of the truly world-beating RSC Education Department has been deeply rewarding during this time, and a way to engage with people beyond my own bubble."

Joseph Kloska 

Actor Joseph Kloska was in rehearsals in Stratford when lockdown began. With the show unable to open he shared his love of Shakespeare with students and teachers in the Royal Shakespeare Community.

“I have made Homework Help for students who are looking at Macbeth. Although I felt somewhat odd to be all alone in my living room, staring at my mobile, trying to replicate some of the brilliant exercises.

“I've worked with teachers in Nottingham and I've loved chatting to Year 10 students in Blackpool who asked a series of brilliant and provocative questions about Shakespeare, what it's like to be an actor, whether I've ever forgotten my lines (of course, frequently) and about our hopes and dreams for the future.”

Read Joseph’s blog

Freya, York

“I was running through the dress rehearsal for my Youth Theatre show the day the government announced the doors of the theatres would close. I was gutted."

Freya

 

Freya lives in York and joined our Youth Advisory Board in 2020.

"I first got into acting at age five. My older sister was at York Theatre Royal’s Youth Theatre, and she was loving it. She went on Saturday mornings, and I would tag along to drop her off and pick her up. But I never wanted to leave. I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to be an actual member.

"When I finally was able to join, I fell in love with theatre and made so many amazing memories. I've learnt lots about acting, what happens behind the stage and the different themes and messages within the plays we performed. I’ve also learnt many useful qualities which will stay with me for life: confidence, resilience, creativity, observation, communication, discipline. I’ve also made lots of brilliant friends along the way and had endless amounts of fun.

"Coronavirus has changed the theatre for me because I no longer have any rehearsals for the production I had a role in. I was actually running through the dress rehearsal for my Youth Theatre show the day the government announced the doors of the theatres woud close. I was gutted, and being in lockdown has felt like having endless show blues."

Beccy, Blackpool

“I can’t wait until I can step through those doors, take my seat, wait for the lights to go down, the audience to hush, and the curtain to rise…"

beccy-blackpool-2-crop


Beccy is part of Shakespeare Nation, Blackpool. She was part of Blackpool Grand Youth Theatre as a teenager and studies performing arts, before working in social care and admin, becoming a mum and giving up work to care for her disabled husband.

"I’d been looking forward to upcoming events and performances when we went into lockdown. I found it tough, as many others did. I felt disconnected and lacked the enthusiasm to do anything. Then Jo and Ian, from the Grand and the RSC, suggested we all have a Zoom get together, which became the first of several. It was just what I needed, I felt energised and enthusiastic about working together and creating something. I loved being able to connect with people and discuss something we share a passion for. Meeting virtually has been great but isn’t the same as actually being with people. Working together during lockdown made me keen to find a way to carry on working to create and perform. And I can’t wait until I can step through those doors, take my seat, wait for the lights to go down, the audience to hush, and the curtain to rise…"

Elaine, Blackpool

I’ve gone from not watching it at all to now not being able to get enough of it!"


Elaine

Elaine has been a supporter of our Shakespeare Nation project from the start, including using her wide-ranging Blackpool contacts to recruit people to take part. But before lockdown Elaine was always too busy to take part herself.

"It was 1947 when I was first taught Shakespeare. He wasn’t inspirational as he was for others, in fact, I think he could have done with being taught it himself! It was really nothing but reading it from a book and it made no impression on me whatsoever. So I’ve never been a fan of Shakespeare up to now. I’ve learned so much, I’ve learned about the sound of it, the resonance of the text. I’ve gone from not watching it at all to now not being able to get enough of it! As far as what’s being taught to children, I think it’s wonderful. They're going to grow up loving Shakespeare, they’re not going to be like me! I can’t thank you enough."

 

Azita, Birmingham

"Schools are having to adapt significantly and it’s an incredible comfort knowing that we have the RSC supporting us in this new educational challenge.”

Azita-Headshot-face-crop

 

Azita is Headteacher of Nelson Mandela Primary School, an RSC Lead Associate School, which heads up a cluster of 12 primary and secondary Associate Schools across Birmingham. Located in Sparkbrook, Birmingham – an area of high cultural diversity – 88% of Nelson Mandela School’s pupils have a first language that is not English and 45% are eligible for free school meals. Its goal is to provide pupils with opportunities to develop their knowledge, performance and oracy skills, and also to enable parents to experience and take an active part in the cultural facilities in the region.

"Some of our children during this pandemic are living in significantly changed family circumstances with increases in unemployment and increased overcrowding. Academic gaps is the obvious focus for schools; however we must not (and cannot) underestimate the need to focus on the social and emotional needs of the children too.

"We are working with the RSC over the summer holiday period to run summer schools for our children and children in our Associate Schools. We are also looking forward to working with the RSC and other schools on the equalities agenda, using Shakespeare’s work to explore issues of race and identity. Schools are having to adapt significantly and it’s an incredible comfort knowing that we have the RSC supporting us in this new educational challenge.”


Read Azita's blog

Emma, Cumbria

“I drove home in tears. But… opened the doors again on the Monday to a selection of children whose parents were battling against this virus on all kinds of front lines."

Emma Aubrey head and shoulders outside

 

Emma is Headteacher of Dowdales School in the Furness peninsula of Cumbria. The mixed 11-16 local authority school of 950 students has been part of our Learning and Performance Network since 2007 and became a Lead Associate School in 2018.

"There was a really dark day in March when I was told to close the doors of my school and say goodbye to all in my community. I needed to send them off to keep them safe and well (for me – this is such an alien concept – I usually keep them with me to keep them safe). I told them to look after their families and to be kind. I told them that I would see them as soon as it was safe to do so.

"I drove home in tears. But… opened the doors again on the Monday to a selection of children whose parents were battling against this virus on all kinds of front lines – in the NHS, in the post office, in transport, in the police force. We made it our job to look after them and to make sure that their experience of ‘lockdown’ was as positive as it could be.

"There is much to be positive about. All of our students will be back to school in the autumn. The school corridors will once again be filled with chatter and laughter.  

"We face massive challenges – the students will be segregated into school year zones, the fact that they will have to sit and face forward, the fact that they can’t mix at lunchtime, the fact that our school show cannot be the usual showcase across all years. But, we can have our Performing Arts lessons, we can use RSC techniques, we can use the offer that the RSC have put together to interact with theatre and text in a creative way that will enthuse and inspire students. The RSC have continued to give us support in a time when we need to remember the joy of exploring and learning. We will have Shakespeare on the stage in our school again."

Read Emma's blog

Joshua, London

“I find it crazy that by simply 'pretending' a person can provoke all sorts of emotions and reactions from tears to laughter - as a result of this fascination, theatre means the world to me."

Josh headshot

Joshua is a member of our Next Generation Act young company, he now attends the BRIT school in London, which trains and educates young people for careers in the arts.

“Despite theatre having such limitless potential, it still suffers from a number of restrictions as a result of ignorance in the world. In my head the future of theatre involves an entirely equal platform for people of all races, backgrounds, religions etc to perform and communicate their points to their audience. Theatre would educate, express and above all else entertain.

“Being part of the RSC Next Generation ACT company has changed my view on theatre for the better. I had never noticed the ways that theatre is used; bringing people from all over the country together, giving those who are less fortunate an opportunity, educating and more. In a more personal way the RSC have given me a glimpse into my future as an actor and given me the information and connections I'll need in the future as an actor.”

Andrew, Stratford-upon-Avon

“The students I met for a Zoom Q&A in Bradford asked such brilliant questions. All of a sudden, all that matters is passion and communication and empowerment."

Andrew French 

Actor Andrew French was in rehearsals in Stratford when lockdown began and has been using his time off stage to support our education work with schools and students.

"My garden has never looked better and my youngest son has learned a very great deal about superheroes. The other bonus has been the students and enthusiasts I have met.

"Homework Help questions (thoughtful questions and too long answers, I'm afraid) on the RSC website and Summer School readings all help to remind me, 'There is a world elsewhere'."

The Royal Shakespeare Community is drawn from our partnership programme with schools, community groups and regional theatres working together across England. Our Youth Advisory Board is made up of 31 Shakespeare Ambassadors from our Associate Schools around the country.

Our partner theatres are: The Alhambra Theatre (Bradford Theatres); The Grand Theatre Blackpool, Hall For Cornwall; Hull Truck Theatre; Intermission Youth; The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury; The New Vic Theatre; Newcastle Theatre Royal; Northern Stage; The Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall Nottingham; York Theatre Royal.