The Partnership Expands: The Royal Shakespeare Company and The Ohio State University


The Partnership Expands: The Royal Shakespeare Company and The Ohio State University
By Elizabeth Harelik (PhD Student)

The partnership between The Ohio State University and the UK’s Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) continued to grow and expand during the 2013-2014 school year, the fifth year of this partnership. In autumn 2013, guest director Cressida Brown was in residency at Ohio State, and directed the MFA acting cohort, along with six undergraduate students, in a production of The Tempest.  In addition to evening and weekend shows, the cast performed several matinees, which allowed over 1000 K-12 students from Columbus and the surrounding area to see this show.

In February, the Department of Theatre opened its touring production of As You Like It at the Lincoln Theatre in downtown Columbus. Mo Ryan directed the production, which toured to 18 area schools from February to April.  In addition to performing, the cast conducted interactive workshops with K-12 students.

In April, the RSC’s First Encounter production of The Taming of the Shrew toured to Columbus. Over 2000 K-12 and undergraduate students were able to attend this show and experience either a Q&A or a music-focused workshop, led by RSC actors.  Throughout their residency, the company worked with students and faculty from the Departments of English and Theatre in a series of workshops.

Additionally, a new cohort of teachers and graduate students began the RSC training in October 2013.  The 2013-2014 cohort of 21 teachers and 8 graduate students (JiRye Lee and Esmaeil Najar from theatre) participated in professional development days throughout the school year, culminating in a week-long trip to Stratford-upon-Avon in June 2014. Cohort members attended the RSC productions of Henry IV parts 1 and 2 and had the opportunity to see other plays in their repertoire.  In June the RSC opened The Other Space at the Courtyard Theatre for a festival that included four new plays by women. Lesley Ferris was invited to speak at one of the events related to this new work: “Making Mischief: Shakespeare, Gender and Radical Thought.”

There were also exciting developments in the Shakespeare and Autism project, another element of the OSU/RSC partnership.  In June, The Tempest, adapted and directed by Kelly Hunter, opened in Stratford-upon-Avon as a co-production between Ohio State and the Royal Shakespeare Company. This groundbreaking production, targeted specifically towards young people with autism, used the games and tenets of the Hunter Heartbeat Method (HHM) to tell the story of Shakespeare’s play. The cast of six was made up of three actors from Ohio State (Robin Post; Kevin McClatchy; and alumnus Mahmoud Osman) and three actors from the RSC (Greg Hicks, Chris MacDonald, and Eva Tausig).  Additionally, children with autism who attended the production were incorporated into the performance. Following its last performance in Stratford on July 4, Lesley Ferris moderated a post-performance discussion that included Kelly Hunter, the actors, and Michael Dobson, Director of the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford.

After its two-week run in Stratford, the production had its North American premiere in Columbus, co-presented by the Wexner Center for the Arts, with four performances at the Wexner Center for the Arts, two performances at Haugland Learning Center, and two performances at WOSU@COSI.