MAKING SHAKESPEARE ACCESSIBLE: CASE STUDIES OF THE AMERICAN SHAKESPEARE CENTER AND ATLANTA SHAKESPEARE COMPANY
Abdullah, Nur Qasdina Jeeta
Frederik, Laurie A.
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Since the nineteenth century, theatre practitioners have sought to recreate the conventions of William Shakespeare’s original staging. This phenomenon was initially known as the Elizabethan Revival. Today, theatre practitioners in the United States continue this exploration and its now known as “original practices.” Shakespeare companies like the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia and the Atlanta Shakespeare Company (at the New Shakespeare Tavern) in Atlanta, Georgia are examples of companies that are committed to the exploration of original practices, not only in the design of their theatre space and performance style but also in relation to how they develop and market their educational and outreach programs for elementary and secondary school students and for teacher training. In this dissertation, I trace the growth of Shakespeare’s popularity in the United States through the public’s access to printed plays, public performances, and school programs. I use two case studies to examine how these very different playhouse spaces adapt their performances and programs to the original practice approach. Both of my case studies highlight certain key elements. The two companies were trying to develop heightened levels of audience intimacy, interaction, and inclusion. In their exploration of original practices, they emphasized intimacy of the performance experience and of the space itself. They promoted interaction between the actors and audience, and also between the professional company and amateur students, nurturing them as future adult audience members. And they tried to include a diverse community, those that surrounded the theatre playhouses but may not have had access to the texts or the shows in the permanent spaces due to geography or economic situation. Finally, I look at marketing and analyze how components are connected through their websites, mission statements, social media, and statements of community commitment.