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About the Company
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The RSC is one of the world's best-known theatre companies. Every year the Company plays to a million theatergoers at 2,000 performances staged across the world.

We play throughout the year at our home in Stratford-upon-Avon, the town where Shakespeare was born and died. We also perform regularly in London and at an annual RSC residency in Newcastle Upon Tyne. In addition, we play over 50 weeks of UK and international touring, including residencies with universities and performing centres in the United States.

The RSC's touchstone is the work of William Shakespeare. Our mission is to keep in touch with Shakespeare as out contemporary, but also to keep contemporary audiences, artists and writers in touch with Shakespeare. In addition to Shakespeare, the Company's repertoire includes other Renaissance dramatists, and the work of international and contemporary writers.

We want to give as many people as possible, from all walks of life, a richer and fuller understanding of theatre. Through education and outreach programmes we continually strive to engage people with the experience of live performance.

Despite continual change, the RSC today is still at the heart an ensemble company. Everyone in the Company, from directors, actors and writers to production, administrative, technical and workshop staff, all collaborate in the RSC distinctive and unmistakable approach to theatre.

The Early Years
In 1875, Charles Edward Flower, a Stratford brewer, launched an international campaign to build a theatre in the town of Shakespeare's birth. His donation of the now famous two-acre site began a family tradition of generosity to the theatre which continues today. The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre was a Victorian Gothic building originally seating 711 people (53 in the stalls, 158 in the circle, 500 in the gallery and pit) with further seating being added in 1880, 1899 and 1903-04. It opened in 1879 with a performance of Much Ado About Nothing. Initially the season was limited to 8 days in the spring. From 1907 star visitors began to appear in Stratford such as Ellen Terry and H Beerbohm Tree and under the direction of F R Benson, a month-long summer season was added in 1910.

The Royal Charter
Almost 50 years of excellence were recognized in 1925 by the granting of a Royal Charter. Only a year later the theatre was destroyed by fire. Today, the Swan Theatre occupies all that remains of the original Victorian Memorial Theatre. The festival director, William Bridges-Adams, continued productions in a local cinema, and a worldwide campaign was launched to build a new theatre. In 1932 The Prince of Wales opened the new Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, designed by Elisabeth Scott, on 23rd April, Shakespeare's birthday.

1932 - 1961
Over the next thirty years the Company continued to build its reputation, working with established Shakespearean actors, as well as nurturing new talent. From 1945 the company's work began to win critical acclaim. Michael Redgrave, Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft, Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier acted alongside new faces such as Richard Burton. It was in the late 1950s that invitations to perform in Russia, Europe and the USA helped to broaden the company's outlook.

The 1960s
In 1960, Peter Hall formed the modern Royal Shakespeare Company and in 1961, the Memorial Theatre was renamed the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. The repertoire widened to take in modern work and classics other than Shakespeare. The sixties brought a new generation of actors and directors to the company - David Warner, Judi Dench, Ian Richardson, Janet Suzman, Clifford Williams, John Barton, Trevor Nunn and Terry Hands. Many remain Associate Artists of the RSC. This period also saw landmark productions such as Peter Hall's Wars of the Roses. Over the next thirty years the company continued to expand under a succession of visionary and creative Artistic Directors: Peter Hall (1960 - 1968), Trevor Nunn (1968 -1978), Trevor Nunn jointly with Terry Hands (1978 - 1987), Terry Hands (1987 - 1991) and Adrian Noble (1991 - 2003).

The Swan Theatre
The 1986 season in Stratford saw the opening of another theatre. Built inside part of the shell of the Memorial Theatre that survived the 1926 fire, the Swan is a unique, modern theatre space based on the design of the playhouses of Elizabethan England. The Swan Theatre continues to be a favorite space for many actors and audiences owing to its intimate staging and the close proximity of the audience to the action.

Extending the Company's Reach
Adrian Noble succeeded Terry Hands as Artistic Director in March 1991 and has continued to extend the vision and reach of the company over the last ten years. In 1996 the company announced a major change in policy to increase access to the company's repertoire through increased touring worldwide. The extension of the geographical spread of the RSC now enables up to 75% of the population to be within a 45 - minute drive time of the RSC's work at some point in the year.

A new Artistic Director
In July 2002 Michael Boyd was announced as the new Artistic Director for the RSC replacing Adrian Noble from March 2003 and signaling a new chapter in the company's history. Michael became an Associate Director of the company in 1996 and has directed numerous productions for the RSC. In 2000/2001 he won an Olivier Award for Best Director for the productions Henry VI, parts I, II, III and Richard III. The productions formed part of the RSC's This England - The Histories cycle. Despite the growth from Festival theatre to international status, the values of the RSC today have changed very little since 1905: the RSC is still formed around an ensemble of actors and a core of associate actors who continue to give a distinctive approach to theatre. The RSC also continues to be a superb training ground for the artistic and technical talents of British and international theatre.


Watch and Listen
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Martin Hutson (Orlando) speaks about the themes of As You LIke It

Nina Sosanya (Rosalind) shares her thoughts about her character and the play As You Like It

Additional Resources
The Royal Shakespeare Company's website: Includes more information on the company and its plays

The Shakespeare Explorer: An Interactive Exploration of the Bard's Legacy

Cast and Company
Gregory Thompson - Artist
Martin Hutson - Artist
Nina Sosanya - Artist

Related Articles
Related Article - "Royal Shakespeare's Happy Coupling": The Washington Post

"Kennedy Center Teams With Britain's Royal Shakespeare": The Washington Post

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