The Playgoer: British Invasion

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Monday, February 08, 2010

British Invasion

Lincoln Center Summer Festival dropped a nice press bomb this morning...

the Royal Shakespeare Company will hold court in Manhattan in the summer of 2011 for an unprecedented six-week, five-play residency. The troupe will occupy a newly constructed theater inside the Park Avenue Armory as part of the Lincoln Center Festival
And given the Lincoln Center Fest's usual practices, we can be sure tickets will be hundreds of dollars and sold out well in advance to patrons.  Thanks.

What's in it for the RSC, you ask?
[RSC A.D. Michael Boyd] said that support and collaboration with artists and patrons in America was increasingly important for the Royal Shakespeare Company, disclosing that 40 percent of its annual fund-raising revenue comes from the United States.

Wait--40 freakin percent???   I wonder how many rich American theatre-lovers are giving more to troupes abroad than here at home?

So we already know NYC hearts RSC.  But the Festival sure is going the extra mile in setting up Stratford Upon Upper East Side:
[S]everal hundred thousand dollars would be spent to construct a replica of the company’s Royal Shakespeare Theater, which is being built in Stratford. The replica will be shipped in pieces to New York and assembled in the Armory’s monumental Drill Hall, which has 55,000 square feet of uncolumned space.
Funny thing is, the Armory is only a short walk away from NYC's, um, other summer Shakespeare attraction, the Public Theatre's Delacorte.  If I were Eustis & co. I would not ignore the Brits, but choose the same plays and directly challenge them to a Bard-Off!  After all, we already know RSC is bringing six plays (“Antony and Cleopatra,” “As You Like It,” “Julius Caesar,” “King Lear,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Winter’s Tale") so there's not much else even left!


Mr. K said...

Yup, we all know Shakespeare only wrote eight plays (only Macbeth and some play TBA are missing). All those other plays in the Folio were written by Shakespeare's Mexican non-union equivalent, Senor Shakespearo. And no one else wrote anything after Shakespeare until Arthur Miller & Eugene O'Neill were born.

That is the history of theatre, right? I mean, that's what I get from the plays currently being performed.

Thomas Garvey said...

I know this is bad news for people begging for money for new playwrights (sorry, Isaac and 99!) but it's great news for people like me who love great theatre! The RSC is coming for SIX WEEKS and FIVE PLAYS? Hoo-fucking-ray! I'm a little surprised, too, to find that 40% of their fundraising comes from America - but this actually only indicates that there could be a market in America for better Shakespeare than the Public has an offer. Hmmm. Where's my checkbook?

Unknown said...

Oh wee, a good ol' fashioned Bard Off. We New Yawkers haven't seen a good one of them since Forrest and MacCready went at it in the Astor Place Riots. I for one can't wait. Grab your quills, boys! Its Bard Off time!

Unknown said...

“Our whole mission was to rescue this strangely dilapidated Armory building and create a large-scale cultural venue that would be a wonderful fit for a variety of visions from artists like those from the R.S.C.” --Rebecca Robertson, president of the Park Avenue Armory

So we're going to change what was an awesome epic scale free to do anything black box space and convert it into a thrust theatre that mimicks old English stages. Few more points go to Theatre Regression. Yaay...

Playgoer said...

I apologize for forgetting to include a link in the initial post to Patrick Healy's NY Times story, which is what I'm quoting from. It is now there.

Good comments!

And a good question about the future of the Armory as a venue. It's a great venue, potentially. I had hoped the RSC setup would be temporary. If not, that's too bad.

Better yet, rather than a rental space, it would be nice if someone actually programmed it. Either that or let it rotate amongst a number of homeless companies who need the space.

RLewis said...

Can we please put As You Like It on the no-fly list with R&J, Midsummer, and that Scottish one. I just can't see another production of it.

The Armory is a really tough nut to crack (We've tried). You've got to be doing something really Big to get in the space, but the locals who saved the armory from destruction don't want anything in it that will disrupt their neighborhood or its parking (i.e. something really Big).

Maybe they figure that tourists or mass transit locals might go for imported Shakespeare, but the car driving day-trippers will stay away from such intellectual work.

Anonymous said...

"I know this is bad news for people begging for money for new playwrights (sorry, Isaac and 99!) but it's great news for people like me who love great theatre!"

Weird. Why would these things be mutually exclusive?

isaac butler said...

hey, with the RSC coming, maybe NYC will actually get some good classical productions going for once.

As much as i love New York theatre, i don't know why we can't do classical plays with any kind of consistency in this city. DC seems to have it pretty much figured out. Here in New York there's RED BULL (Who produce once a year tops) and CLASSICAL THEATRE OF HARLEM and then a lot of orgs with really spotty quality. It's gotten to the point where if a classical play that originated in new york gets good reviews, i don't believe them.

frank said...

Sure, it's more expensive upper middlebrow fare from the Lincoln Center Festival, but this stuff does have its place in the scene, yeah?

And to be fair re: ticket prices, there are usually some quite good subscription deals.

Anonymous said...

It's the RSC. I'm glad that the RSC is a gravitational center for international philanthropy. Think Ian Holm, Kingsley, Stewart, Jacobi, Mckellan (sp?), Dench, and the list goes on and on and on. Think of RSC-related movies: The X-Men movies, the LOTR films, Sexy Beast, okay. On and on.

My point is that the RSC gives more to Hollywood than New York gives to Hollywood (New York film/theater is very anti-Hollywood). I'm not sure what I'm trying to say, except that donating money to the RSC is like ensuring that Hollywood blockbusters have some quality.

I would like to say, however, that there always is great Shakespeare on film. If the bard were alive today, he'd be a screenwriter, not a playwright. I have a Ph.D in literature (w/ an emphasis on Renaissance and Shakespeare), and it is my belief that it's better to see Shakespeare on film than on stage. The whole theater fetish is quaint and sweet, but misguided. Perhaps it's great for the actors. That I believe (and it certainly trains them, beautifully). But for the viewer, film is better. In the 16th C, stage effects were captivating. Now, they seem artsy and quaint and don't create the proper environment for Shakespeare's words. The stage is a distraction. We're accustomed to cinema. Cinema is more our reality than the stage. Polanski's Macbeth is brilliant. Branagh's Hamlet and Much Ado are both brilliant.

To see great Sahkesperae, all a person has to do is buy a 12 dollar movie ticket, or use Netflix.

- TribecaAvery

frank said...

Branaugh's Hamlet is a mess.

Anonymous said...

how is it a mess, aside from winslet, who can't act? branagh gets the speeches right, whereas the brilliant great amazing olivier, often gets them wrong. i think it's great, and so did all my grad school profs.

okay. jack lemmon sucks too. but the rest of the cast is great.

anyhow, my point is, in part, that it's the cumulative effect. have you seen much shakespeare on stage? to me, it feels like a poetry reading, not a dramatic event. bear in mind, i think everybody should READ shakespeare.

shakespeare is the least sanctimonious of writers. branagh gets that. at first, i didn't like how he said "words. words. wordzzz." then i did. hamlet isn't emo. olivier's hamlet is too emo. also, the voice-over is wrong.

anyway, my overarsing point is that by giving money to teh RSC, philanthropists (perhaps unwittingly) are giving money to Hollywood, which I think is great.