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Shakespeare Theatre Company

220px-Folger_Library_Theater

Acceptance Speech (2012): Regional Theatre Award – The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington, D.C.

 

 Michael Kahn accepting a Tony Award on behalf of The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington, D.C. winner of the Regional Theatre Award during the 2012 Tony ceremony.

The Shakespeare Theatre Company is a regional theatre company located in Washington, D.C. The theatre company focuses primarily on plays from the Shakespeare canon, but its seasons include works by other classic playwrights such as EuripidesIbsen and Wilde. The company manages and performs in theHarman Center for the Arts, consisting of the Landsburgh Theatre and Sidney Harman Hall. In cooperation with George Washington University, they run the Academy for Classical Acting.

The company is a member of the League of Resident Theatres.

History

Folger Library Theater, circa 1932

The Folger Shakespeare Library included a replica of an Elizabethan theatre, which was originally used for lectures and tours. In 1970, it was transformed into a functioning playhouse. The Shakespeare Theatre Company began as the Folger Theatre Group, organized to perform in this space.  In 1982 the name was changed to The Folger Theatre.

In 1988 the company was reincorporated as The Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger and Michael Kahn assumed its leadership. The company stayed at the Folger for six more years.   Changing its name to The Shakespeare Theatre, the troupe moved in 1992 to the newly built Lansburgh Theatre in the Penn Quarter. At the start of the 2005-6 season, it adopted the current name, Shakespeare Theatre Company. The company constructed a second theatre, Sidney Harman Hall, which opened in 2007 in the lower part of an office building in the quarter. At the same time, the two theatres were joined to become the Harman Center for the Arts.

Facilities

Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F Street NW, Washington, DC

Lansburgh Theatre, 450 7th Street NW, Washington, DC

The Shakespeare Theatre Company has two current performance venues. The newer and larger Sidney Harman Hall occupies the lower half of an 11-story office tower. The exterior is distinguished by a glass façade curtain wall on a projected bay window. The 774-seat performance space can be configured as a proscenium, thrust, semi-arena, corridor or bare stage.   The smaller Lansburgh Theatre is in the restored former Lansburgh’s Department Store flagship store, originally built in 1882. The performance space is 451-seat classic proscenium stage. The seating arrangement is reminiscent of a Greek Amphitheater. It has been described as “an intimate space for dramatic theatre, ensemble music and dance.”

In the past the company has performed shows at the Terrace Theater in the Kennedy Center, the Carter Barron Amphitheatre, and their rehearsal space on 8th St SE.

In addition to its performance spaces, the company maintains administrative offices, rehearsal studios, and a costume shop in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.   A set construction and painting shop is near Catholic University in Northeast D.C.   Finally a stage properties shop for the construction and storage of furniture, decorative items, hand props and a variety of set dressing items is located just outside D.C. on the northeast side of the city.

Theatrical Focus

The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s self professed mission is “…to present classic theatre of scope and size in an imaginative, skillful and accessible American style that honors the playwrights’ language and intentions while viewing their work through a 21st-century lens.”  Their vision is to “… endeavor to be an important resource to an expanded national and international community—as the nation’s premier destination for classic theatre, as a training ground for the next generation of theatre artists and as a model provider of high-quality educational content for students and scholars.

Artistic Directors

  • Richmond Crinkley (1970-1973) (While Folger Theatre Group)
  • Louis W. Scheeder (1973-1980) (While Folger Theatre Group)
  • John Neville-Andrews (1980-1986) (Name changed to Folger Theatre then Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger)
  • Michael Kahn (1986–present) (While Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger, then Shakespeare Theatre Company)

Current and recent productions – Further information: Shakespeare Theatre Company production history

The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s 2007 production of Pericles, Prince of Tyrein Washington, DC, as part of the National Endowment for the Arts‘ Shakespeare for a New Generation initiative.

Resident theatre company pioneer Zelda Fichandler has stated that for theatre companies “repertory is destiny” – a theatre company acquires its audience by the productions it presents.   Most of The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s productions are from The Bard’s canon. However each year up to half of the productions are classical works by other authors. The oldest has been Aeschylus‘s The Persians, the oldest surviving play in the history of theatre.   The youngest plays include works by Tennessee Williams (Camino RealSweet Bird of Youth) and Harold Pinter (Old Times). The company has also produced modern interpretations of classical texts such as Mary Zimmerman‘s Argonautika (adapted from The Voyage of Jason and the Argonauts).

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