Royal Shakespeare Company

Definition

Theater

  • (RSC) One of the world's leading theater companies, originallyformed in 1879 as the company of Stratford-upon-Avon's newly openedShakespeare Memorial Theatre; it was incorporated by royalcharter in 1925. The name of the theater was changed in 1961 to the'Royal Shakespeare Theatre' and the company then adopted its presenttitle. Peter Hallwas the new company's first director. Althoughthe RSC now stages a wide variety of plays in its five auditoria,the company remains faithful to its prime role - performingthe works of Shakespeare.

    The original Shakespeare Memorial Theatre was destroyed byfire in 1926 and replaced by the present building, which opened in1932. The company established its first London base in 1960, at theAldwych Theatre, followed by The Warehouse, a studio theater openedin 1977. In 1982 both operations were transferred to the new BarbicanCentre in the City of London. Meanwhile, Stratford had seen theopening of its own studio theater, the Other Place, in 1974. In 1986the Elizabethan-style Swan Theatre, built inside the shell of theoriginal Shakespeare Memorial Theatre's auditorium, came into use.

    Although the RSC enjoyed major success in the West End withTrevor Nunn's Nicholas Nickleby (1980) and LesMisérables (1985) - the latter of which is still playingto packed houses over 20 years later - the company continues to strugglewith a daunting financial deficit. In 2001 artistic director AdrianNoble announced a precipitate withdrawal from the company's Londonbase at the Barbican and unveiled a radical blueprint for the future; thisinvolved shorter contracts for actors, a complete organizational shake-up,and the demolition and rebuilding of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.The hostile reaction to these ideas, which many saw as underminingthe ensemble basis of the company, led to Noble's resignation a yearlater. His successor, Michael Boyd, announced a more modest planto cut running costs and to develop and refurbish the Stratford theater.In 2006 - 07 the company oversaw a project involving the production ofall Shakespeare's plays in the course of a single year. Recent yearshave also seen several triumphant returns to the West End.

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