On 4th July the Shakespeare on the Road team embarked on an epic road trip all around North America in a unique project to discover and document the untold story of the Bard in the USA in the 450th anniversary of his birth.
The project aims to capture, for the first time, a comprehensive picture of Shakespeare’s place in contemporary American culture through the voices of artists and audiences across the continent. It will also be a reverse pilgrimage, celebrating the USA’s astonishing range of Shakespearean performance in classic road trip / travel writing fashion online.
Shakespeare on the Road is a collaborative venture by the University of Warwick and The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, which is based in the playwright’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. Project leaders Dr Paul Prescott, Associate Professor at the University of Warwick, and Rev. Dr Paul Edmondson, Head of Research and Knowledge at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, explain their ambitions:
“The amount of Shakespearean theatre-making in America dwarves that of any other country, the UK included. Every summer from sea to shining sea – from spit-and-sawdust performances in local parks to slick professional productions in reconstructed Elizabethan playhouses – the Bard busts out all over the USA. Nearly every state (including Hawaii and Alaska) has its own seasonal festival devoted to the playwright: there are more dedicated Shakespeare companies in California alone than there are in the whole of the UK. Shakespeare may not have been born in the USA, but from the founding of the republic to the present day, he appears to be immensely at home there.
We will be visiting fourteen Shakespeare festivals across the length and breadth of North America starting on the 4th July in Kansas City and ending in Washington DC in early September. Over 60 days, we’ll travel roughly 10,000 miles, see dozens of Shakespeare productions and meet hundreds of the people who – year in, year out – give fresh life to Shakespeare across the country. Our ambition is to take the pulse of Shakespeare’s presence in American culture in the 450th anniversary of his birth.
Along the way, we speak to actors, audience members, creatives, community organizers, philanthropists and hot-dog sellers about what Shakespeare means to them and their community. Why, in the face of patchy funding and an often indifferent mainstream culture, do they keep doing Shakespeare? What does the ubiquity of Shakespeare in the USA say about American attitudes to Britain and British culture? All too often, Americans are expected to make the pilgrimage to the UK – and especially Stratford-upon-Avon – to pay homage and to learn how Shakespeare ‘should be done’. We want to reverse the direction of pilgrimage and showcase how much the rest of the world has to learn from the rich and varied versions of Shakespeare produced annually in North America”.
No web site or online resource fully captures the scale and diversity of Shakespeare’s cultural presence across the States. Entrepreneurial social media company Misfit Inc. will also be part of the team, developing the project’s dedicated web site.
www.shakespeareontheroad.com will document the journey as it unfolds, through the familiar cinematic/travel writing genre of the road trip.
Partner Festivals and tour dates:
Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, Kansas City, MO 4 - 6 July 2014
New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane, New Orleans, LA 9 - 11 July
Shakespeare at Winedale, Winedale, TX 13 - 15 July
Utah Shakespeare Festival, Cedar City, UT 17 - 19 July
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, Topanga, CA 24 - 26 July
Livermore Shakespeare Festival, Livermore, CA 27 July
Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR 29 - 31 July
Montana Shakespeare Festival, Bozeman, MT 1 - 5 August
Door Shakespeare Festival, Door, WI 7 August
Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Chicago, IL 8 - 9 August
Harlem Shakespeare Festival, NYC, NY 10 - 14 August
Shakespeare and Co., Lenox, MA 15 - 17 August
Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Stratford, ON 19 - 21 August
Nashville Shakespeare Festival, Nashville, TN 23 - 25 August
American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, VA 27 – 29 August
Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington DC 31 August
Dr Susan Brock - Project Manager, Shakespeare on the Road
E: s dot l dot brock at warwick dot ac dot uk
Tom Frew - International Press Officer, University of Warwick
E: a dot t dot frew at warwick dot ac dot uk
P: +44 (0) 2476 575910