Shakespeare on the Road » Paul Edmondson celebrate William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday on a road trip to 14 Shakespeare festivals all around North America in one remarkable summer Fri, 20 Feb 2015 15:09:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Poetry from the Road Fri, 03 Oct 2014 16:12:28 +0000 In posting this last poem from the Road, written while we were towards the end of our trip in Washington D.C., I also thought it would be an opportunity for me to gather together all of the other poems written during the trip. So, below this one are links to all of the others…

‘In Shakespeare’s Steps’
For Ralph Cohen, Jim Warren, Amy Wratchford and all who love the Blackfriars Theatre, Staunton, Virginia.

The gasp that comes before these words begin
Echoes like the striking of a match,
And lights the way into this well-lit grove:
A dream that never ends because the night
Is held, suspended, always in the light.

This oak-beamed universe holds many acts
Which leap up from the stage, push at the sky,
And catch the wind with wild and whirling words
That bless this place, like dew upon those bars,
And settle in the wood like broken stars.

Our congregation-audience behold
A court-room-church, a monastery of sound,
Prayerful, open-fretted, highly wrought:
We hear ourselves in music from our time;
We find ourselves in early-modern rhyme.

I join the dance with Shakespeare’s troupe of friends
Who follow, softly printing, as he pipes
His footsteps on the inside of my mind:
We bow at gallants, smiling to behold
How closely they can feel his story told.

by Paul Edmondson

Click on the links to read and here more poetry from the Road…

The Song of the Bluegrass Bard: for the Nashville Shakespeare Festival

A Sonnet for the Stratford Festival, Ontario

Lenox Rose: for Tina Packer and Shakespeare and Company

Shakespeare in Sable: for  the Harlem Shakespeare Festival

Straight-talking Shakespeare: for the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre

Door Ways to Shakespeare: for the Door Shakespeare Festival

Big Sky Shakespeare – for Montana Shakespeare in the Parks

Destination Shakespeare – A Rondeau for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland

Topanga Song: for Will Geer’s Theatricum Bontanicum

A Sonnet for the Utah Shakespeare Festival

Winedale Villanelle: For Shakespeare at Winedale

Shakespeare in New Orleans: for the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane

The Winter’s Tale in Kansas City: for the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival

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Interview with Jim Warren, Artistic Director of the American Shakespeare Centre Thu, 02 Oct 2014 09:12:26 +0000 In this interview with the Co-Founder of the American Shakespeare Center and its Artistic Director, Jim Warren, he talks about how the company came about, what it means for them to evoke Shakespeare’s staging conditions, and their actor-centric approach to text and production…

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Interview with Cass Morris and Kim Newton Tue, 16 Sep 2014 06:29:30 +0000 The American Shakespeare Center has a flourishing education programme which is based at the Blackfriars Playhouse and which welcomes and reaches out to tens of thousands of people year. Two of its key protagonists are Cass Morris (Academic Resource Manager) and Kim Newton (Director of College Prep Programs).

We asked them whether they ever go elsewhere for their Shakespeare and who their role models for education and pedagogy are…

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Interview with Glenn Schudel and Sara Vasquez Fri, 12 Sep 2014 07:32:22 +0000 It was pleasure to meet with Glenn and Sara, Residential and Touring Troupe Managers for the American Shakespeare Center. In talking to me about what they do and how they do it, they conveyed a real sense of the practical implementation of the vision of this remarkable company: how the actors work within the original practices, how audience reactions affect the performances, working with an ensemble. And like the King’s Men they go on tour, in fact there is only one state in which they have not performed: Nevada.

This year happens to be Sara’s first year as Touring Troupe Manager. She talks to me about the Company’s intriguing practice of having a ‘Ren Season’ and what a ‘Ren Run’ means on the first day of rehearsals. The Director stays well away and lets the actors get on with it, at first…

(The contingencies which are baked into the world of professional theatre meant that the interview started with Glenn, then Sara joined us, and then Glenn had to leave for a rehearsal…)

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Interview with American Shakespeare Company Actor, Patrick Midgley Thu, 11 Sep 2014 06:33:23 +0000 Our time with the last of our fourteen partners, The American Shakespeare Center at the Blackfriars Playhouse, Staunton, Virginia was totally immersive.

When the co-founder, Ralph Cohen, shows people around for the first time he likes to hear and see their reactions on entering the auditorium. The shock of its beauty, craftsmanship, and attention to detail made us all gasp. Walking into the theatre itself is like opening a secret treasure-chest of gems. It is the only reconstruction in the world of the theatre at the former monastery of the Blackfriars that The King’s Men started to use from 1608.Here’s a photograph of the stage (Paul Prescott, left, and I, on either side of Ralph Cohen).


The company there, the American Shakespeare Center, evoke original performance practices from Shakespeare’s time. There are no varied lighting effects, so in Staunton they like to use the saucy slogan: ‘Here we do it with the lights on.’ They like to say ‘sometimes we use contemporary costumes, sometime Elizabethan, and sometimes a mixture of everything in betweeen.’ The actors perform modern music from the gallery at the beginning and in the interval. We saw three productions: a dress-rehearsal of Edward II, Macbeth, and The Comedy of Errors, for which I was able to take one of the gallants’ seats on the edge of the stage itself. This was an astonishing experience, as if the whole world of the play was happening around me.

The American Shakespeare Center inpsires a great sense of loyalty in its actors, some of whom have worked there for ten years. Like the ensemble of men and boys who Shakespeare knew, worked with, and wrote for, their sense of ensemble deepens year in, year out.

Actor Patrick Midgley spoke with me about what it’s like being an actor there, the use of music in the productions, the sense of ensemble, and I was amazed to hear how many roles he is playing this year….

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Interview with Artistic Director, Denice Hicks Mon, 08 Sep 2014 21:54:41 +0000 Denice Hicks is the Artistic Director of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival. It was our pleasure to interview her and to hear her talk about the distinctive qualities of the productions and how the festival relates to its communities. We were astounded to learn that the artistic choice to produce Henry V had changed to As You Like It because of the visit of Shakespeare on the Road. Here she talks about why that decision was made, and about the Blue Grass elements of the show we all enjoyed. She also looks ahead to Henry V in 2015, six hundred years since the Battle of Agincourt, and which, for Nashville, will be set in the American Civil War. She brings together Shakespeare, John Steinbeck and the Nashville community and talks about the important role of the Shakespeare reading group at the public library.

And it’s wonderful that the mayor of Nashville, a former aide to the Kennedys, and a Superbowl superstar have taken part in the festival. We were fascinated to find out more…

(We were in a bar during this recording, so listen out for the background sounds of the cocktails being shaken as well as the music for a hot early evening in Nashville.)

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A Sunday morning discussion in Nashville Sun, 07 Sep 2014 16:10:03 +0000 Well, we’re back in Stratford-upon-Avon after our Shakespeare road-trip adventure. But in some ways it feels as though the project is starting afresh. We have several more blogs we shall be posting here over the next week or so from Nashville, Stanton, and elsewhere. It was never the intention that the project would suddenly stop, as we always knew it would be greater than the sum of it parts.

Two weeks ago, we were treated to a wonderful lunch in the home of Rickey Chick Marquand, where around thirty of us gathered, all cast, colleagues, and friends of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival


Among them were the famous American Football player Eddie George (pictured above) who has played Julius Caesar and Othello at for the festival.


Also present was Country-music star, David Olney (pictured above) who composed songs for this year’s production of As You Like It.

I’ve extrapolated moments from our hour and a half discussion and in it you’ll hear several voices which include (in order of appearance):
Don Capparella (the founder of the festival), Rickey Chick (Director of Development), Eddie George, Nettie Kraft (Education Director), myself, David Olney, Denice Hicks (Artistic Director), Emily Landham (Rosalind), Amanda Card (Celia), and Houston Mahoney (Orlando).

It was a wide-ranging discussion and we all of us were ready to be open-hearted, open-minded and open with our laughter.

I hope you enjoy listening to these snippets as much as we all enjoyed listening and speaking with each other.

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for Don Capparella, Rickey Chick, Ann Cook Calhoun, Denice Hicks, Robert Marigza, and all who love the Nashville Shakespeare Festival. Wed, 03 Sep 2014 12:56:22 +0000 In this land of musician and poet,
Through our Country, our Blues, and our swing,
Shakespeare’s our song,
And the more he plays on,
The more you just want to join in.

Oh, sing with me, y’all, and be thankful
That our Shakespeare’s come home to Nashville;
We will light up his name,
In our great hall of fame,
Like him we’ll treat all folk the same.

I am head over heels in this Arden,
O, come to Centenial Park;
My love in this dream,
Is like home-made ice-cream,
Or the wine that we drink in the dark.

Oh, feast with me y’all, and be thankful
That our Shakespeare’s come home to Nashville;
Our hands and our feet
Will frisk in the heat,
As the stars throb to Amiens’ beat.

I can see my belovèd Orlando,
Hear the songs that he writes to the moon,
Does he know that his eyes,
Glance into my sighs,
Oh, I hope he keeps playing his tune.

Oh, let’s make a quilt and be thankful
That our Shakespeare’s come home to Nashville;
If we all stitch our part,
Then the Bluegrass can start
To play on the strings of our heart.

We will never be absent in spirit;
If Shakespeare’s there, we’ll be found;
Whether happy or sad,
Through good times and bad,
Formed from the clay of this ground.

Oh, all of my days I’ll be thankful,
That our Shakespeare’s come home to Nashville;
Blow a kiss to the band,
And give me your hand,
As we dance on this honky-tonk sand.

by Paul Edmondson

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Bella Higginbotham welcomes us to Nashville as Puck Wed, 03 Sep 2014 12:05:43 +0000 On our first morning in Nashville we were invited to give a presentation at the Public Library, where we met the Mayor, the Commissioner for the Arts and key people connected with the Nashville Shakespeare Festival.

But we weren’t expecting to meet Bella, who is eight years old and recently began her Shakespearian career in a local children’s theatre productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Some of her other acting credits include Cosette in Les Miserables presented by Studio Tenn and the Nashville Symphony, Gretl in Studio Tenn’s The Sound of Music, and Sorrow in the Nashville Ballet’s Madame Butterfly.

Here she is welcoming us to Nashville with some lines from Puck (just one year younger than Ellen Terry was when she played the part).

Thank you to Rob Higginbotham, Bella’s father, for sending us the video and clearing the necessary permissions.

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Interview with Rickey Chick, Director of Development Tue, 02 Sep 2014 21:25:03 +0000 Rickey invited us to her home where she hosted a delightful brunch reception on our Sunday morning in Nashville. We were joined by many members of the festival company and we all of us enjoyed a group discussion for well over an hour. Extracts from some of that will be posted here in due course, and the discussion as a whole is a wonderful addition to the archive of this extraordinary road-trip.

Later, though, we were able to interview Rickey on her own. She spoke to us very movingly about her belief in community, what is distinctive about the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, its work with young people, and how she sees its values reflecting Shakespeare’s own.

Along the way she talks about a special quilt the festival is making and mentions the Dolly Parton song ‘The Coat of Many Colours.’ I didn’t know the song but am pleased I now do. It’s a great illustration of the truthful simplicity on which Country music relies and which we found in spades in the people and places we spent time in. You might like to listen to it on YouTube by clicking here

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