While its buildings all remain closed, the Royal Shakespeare Company will hand over its social media channels to the global community in what it’s calling the “largest-ever celebration of Shakespeare by audiences” in its history.
Launching today (15 April 2020), the “Royal Shakespeare Community” invites audiences from across the local, national and global community to play their part in keeping the work of Shakespeare alive during the coronavirus lockdown. Through a newly launched programme of audience-curated performance, digital screenings and supporting educational resources, communities will celebrate a shared love of Shakespeare, and place the creativity of audiences centre stage.
The Royal Shakespeare Community programme launches with #ShareYourShakespeare – a virtual celebration in collaboration with The Folger Shakespeare Library in which audiences from across the globe are invited to share their love of Shakespeare in whatever way they choose.
.@TheRSC is handing its #socialmedia channels over to audiences to help keep the bard’s work alive in #lockdown. #ShareYourShakespeare in your own style. The most creative, surprising & inspiring contributions will feature in an online premiere on 23 Apr, #Shakespeare‘s bday. #ST pic.twitter.com/tkk6GRZhjF
— Terri Paddock (@TerriPaddock) April 15, 2020
Among those backing the #ShareYourShakespeare campaign is Doctor Who and Broadchurch star David Tennant, who last appeared at the RSC in Gregory Doran’s 2013 production of Richard II. Joining David are Charlotte Arrowsmith, David Bradley, Stephen Boxer, Edward Bennett, and Paapa Essiedu, who played the title role of Hamlet in Simon Godwin’s 2016 production for the RSC (soon to be broadcast on the BBC).
Other RSC alumni taking part are Fleabag star Ray Fearon, writer, actor and political activist John Kani (Kunene and the King, 2019), award-winning British stage and film actresses Jane Lapotaire, Joanne Pearce and Katy Stephens, and David Threlfall, star of the RSC’s 2016 production of Don Quixote and the long-running Channel 4 TV series Shameless.
Whether performing a speech, baking a cake, painting a picture, serenading a neighbour over the garden fence or teaching your dog to bark Macbeth, #ShareYourShakespeare will bring together famous faces from the RSC’s celebrated performance history with current acting company, Associate Schools, partner theatres and community theatre-makers around the world. Together they will create a virtual celebration of shared creativity, community spirit, and the enduring power of storytelling.
Some folks are quick off the mark!
Loving some of the #ShareYourShakespeare tweets already from @KatyStephens69 @BereftStatistic @valhumphreys51 @Kirsten_STR @joinedupdots1 @Lancaster851 & others. Check out @TheRSC for others. pic.twitter.com/O528Pgnxjh
— Terri Paddock (@TerriPaddock) April 15, 2020
The most creative, surprising and inspiring contributions will be unveiled on Thursday 23 April 2020, William Shakespeare’s Birthday, through the online premiere of the biggest, Shakespeare performance delivered by and for the global community.
Audiences everywhere are invited to Share their Shakespeare by film or photograph, in any way they like and upload it to Instagram, Twitter or Youtube, tagging @theRSC and using the hashtag #ShareYourShakespeare.
Ideas for sharing YOUR Shakespeare MIGHT include:
- Baking a cake with your favourite quote in the icing
- Recreating the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene with vegetables
- Performing “All the world’s a stage” line by line with your family
- Drawing or painting your favourite scene
- Re-writing a Shakespeare speech as a song
- Shouting your speech over the fence to your neighbours (two metres apart)
- Acting out a moment through the medium of dance
- Getting your pets involved
- Telling a Shakespeare story in emojis
Gregory Doran, Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, said:
“As a global pandemic cuts us off from one another in ways we could never have imagined, and with everyday life as we know it brought to an indefinite standstill, we need stories now, more than ever before. They help to make sense of the world around us and to bring us together, and who better to articulate our collective hopes, anxieties, fears and joys than William Shakespeare. His words, speeches and stories speak to us all in different ways whilst, at the same time, uniting us across borders, languages and cultures.
“With our stages currently empty, productions cancelled, and our buildings temporarily closed, it feels more important than ever to connect with our audiences, artists and partners across the world through shared experiences. Together we can celebrate those everyday acts of human creativity and resilience that continue to inspire us, raise a smile and propel us forward, together in times of crisis.
“That’s why we are handing control of the Royal Shakespeare Company to you, our Royal Shakespeare Community. And whilst we can’t be together for Shakespeare’s birthday this year, we will instead be marking the day with a global celebration in which audiences everywhere can play their part.”
Michael Witmore, Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, added: “What do people do when they find themselves in strange, challenging circumstances? They improvise. The Folger Shakespeare Library is adapting to the current pandemic as so many others are doing: by finding community wherever we can and engaging in new ways. One of the greatest virtues of Shakespeare’s characters is their ability to improvise. Think of Viola emerging from a shipwreck on the coast of Ilyria – someone who has been displaced, stressed, and called to do new things.
“We are challenging ourselves and others to try new things in the spirit of Shakespearean improv – and to share them with a global community. Creativity comes in many forms, and while very few of us could sit down during a pandemic and write King Lear – as Shakespeare is thought to have done – we can make the most of what we have. Join family members and friends, take whatever you have around you, and be part of a Shakespeare takeover in your own place of refuge. It doesn’t matter where you start or finish, how polished your results. We just want to show what ordinary creative people – which means, all people – can do when we put our minds and hearts together in a time of crisis. Just because we are sheltering in place doesn’t mean we can’t create in place too!”