Talking Shakespeare from the heart

Interview with Tina Packer, Shakespeare and Company

Tina Packer is the visionary and founder of Shakespeare and Company, Lenox, Massachusetts. We were all of us captivated by her in our own ways. It was Tina who met with us on our first morning at the delightful Seven Hills Inn and took us to see some of the company’s inspirational educational work; it was Tina who provided us with the generous picnic at the production of Romeo and Juliet in the grounds of Edith Wharton’s home, The Mount; it was Tina’s production of Julius Caesar that so impressed us on the Saturday evening – a lean, mean, Caesar machine, as I dubbed it in the interval.

When I think of Shakespeare and Company, I immediately see an expanse of green space with the Rose ‘footprint’ in the middle of it with a small. thatched barn to the left. I see the Shakespeare garden just across from the Tina Packer Playhouse (definitely not Tina’s choice of name for their up to the minute auditorium which can be configured into five different kinds of theatre space); their scenery workshops; costume collection; shoes and swords; and all of this dressed or fringed with an undeniable sense of New England in the surrounding landscape and architecture.

Our hour-long interview with Tina was definitely a culmination of the time we had spent with Shakespeare and Company: inspiring, informative, at times, deliciously indiscreet.

Here she talks about her early days at RADA, her work with the RSC, her interest in stage-fighting, meeting and working with the influential Kristin Linklater, what it means to lead a creative organisation, an epiphany in India, and how she believes classical theatre can make a difference to a community.

To be in Tina’s company is immediately to be caught up in the truth of what she stands for in both her politics and her art, which we hope this extract conveys.

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