Category: Shakespeare

Response to The Stage article, 15 August 2018The Globe’s Head of…

Response to The Stage article, 15 August 2018

The Globe’s Head of Higher Education & Research, Dr Farah Karim-Cooper, responds to an article that appeared in The Stage on 15 August 2018:  

Shakespeare’s Globe sparks new row with lighting designers over claims of racial discrimination

week the Globe is hosting a festival to discuss Shakespeare and race. The
workshops and symposium are being attending by a variety of people across the
theatre industry and academia. The academics and theatre artists attending and
participating in the Shakespeare and Race festival have experience of attending
and performing in plays in many other theatres with lighting design. It is not
just the experience of the Globe that is informing this discussion. The Sam
Wanamaker Playhouse utilises various types of handheld candles and stage
designs, all contributing to ensure an actor’s face is illuminated properly. It
would be wrong to deny that this issue exists in theatre today. There are many
factors that contribute to discrimination of an actor of colour, lighting is
certainly an element, alongside other factors including blocking, costuming and
stage design.

glad discussion and debate have been sparked and would encourage a continued
conversation, and invite people to attend the remainder of our festival,
including a workshop on Women and Theatre in Britain, Playing Othello featuring actors who have all played the role, Hip-hop Shakespeare Unplugged,
and Shakespeare and Race Across Borders: a scholarly symposium.

Having discussed the many issues
facing actors of colour with actors attending our festival, this is certainly
an issue that should not be dismissed. The conversation is, and must remain,
complex and our festival is an attempt to open up conversation in the fight
against discrimination.

Shakespeare & Race Symposium speakers. Our Shakespeare &…

Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw

Professor Luke Harris

Ian Smith

Ayanna Thompson

Arthur L. Little and Kim F. Hall

Shakespeare & Race Symposium speakers. 

Our Shakespeare & Race festival culminates in an international symposium – Shakespeare and Race Across Borders: A Scholarly Symposium

This ground-breaking conference brings together scholars from the disciplines of race, Shakespeare, theatre and performance studies to discuss the ways in which race is taught at university, discussed in the critical field and represented in performance.

Keynote speakers for the symposium comprise Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, Professor of Law at Columbia Law School and UCLA, she coined the term “intersectionality” and is a leader in the intellectual movement of Critical Race Theory.

Professor Luke Harris is Associate Professor of American Politics and Constitutional Law at Vassar College and co-founder of the African American Policy Forum.

Ian Smith is a professor of English and teaches at Lafayette College. His current research project, Black Shakespeare, examines Shakespeare’s interest in social and political racial identities.

Professor Ayanna Thompson has written extensively on the subject of Shakespeare and race. Ayanna is the 2018-19 President of the Shakespeare Association of America and Director of the Arizona Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies at Arizona State University.

Arthur L. Little is an Associate Professor of English at UCLA and author of numerous articles on Shakespeare, race and justice.

Kim F. Hall (Barnard College) will also be on the panel. Kim is Lucyle Hook Professor of English and Professor of Africana Studies at Barnard College, University of Colombia

Other keynote speakers:

Devon Carbado teaches at UCLA School of Law and has won numerous teaching awards, including the inaugural Fletcher Foundation Fellowship.

Ania Loomba is the Catherine Byson Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania where she researches and teaches early modern literature, race and feminist theory.

Joyce Green MacDonald is the Associate Professor of English at the University of Kentucky.

See the website for a full list of speakers.

Voices in the Dark in rehearsal. The team behind the Young…

Voices in the Dark in rehearsal. 

The team behind the Young Muslim Voices project believe in the power of sharing and telling peoples stories to challenge perceptions, to promote a community of diversity, and to remind us that we are united by more than divides us.

At The Globe our cause is to “celebrate Shakespeare’s transformative impact on the world…”

Voices In The Dark is our chance to question that cause. Does Shakespeare really have a transformative impact on the world? And if he does, whose world is he impacting on?

This questioning led us to two organisations: Intermission and Voices, organisations who are using the power of language, story and performance to try to transform our world for the better.

Voices is a social start-up which aims to creatively challenge perceptions through the sharing and telling of people’s stories. The stories you will hear tonight are all monologues that have been written anonymously (if they so wish) by young Muslims in the UK and tonight they will be performed by professional actors for the first time.

Intermission Youth Theatre is a charity giving young people the tools to make positive choices, to become the best version of themselves through theatre. Using Shakespeare as inspiration, they reimagine his language to tell stories and create their own contemporary interpretations.
Working with these organisations we partnered their scenes and monologues with some of Shakespeare’s own stories to see if we could get any closer to answering our question.

Voices in the Dark is a night of poetry, personal stories, and performance; a call and response from now to then, spanning 400 years of storytelling.

Michelle Terry is the Artistic Director of the Globe. 

Photography: Pete Le May 

Playing Othello.A look at some of the actors who have played…

André Holland photographed by Simon Annand, 2018

Eamonn Walker photographed by Johan Persson, 2007

Lloyd Everitt photographed by Cesare De Giglio, 2015

Kurt Egyiawan photographed by Marc Brenner, 2017

Q Brothers photographed by Simon Kane, 2012

David Harewood in The Complete Walk film, 2016

Playing Othello.

A look at some of the actors who have played Othello at the Globe or as part of Globe projects. 

Hear from our current Othello, André Holland and Golda Rosheuvel who portrayed Othello as a lesbian at the Liverpool Everyman Playhouse at our forthcoming event Playing Othello, part of the Shakespeare & Race festival

Shakespeare and Race. For the first time, Shakespeare’s Globe is…

Shakespeare and Race. 

For the first time, Shakespeare’s Globe is holding a festival on Shakespeare and Race. Farah Karim-Cooper, Head of Higher Education & Research at Shakespeare’s Globe looks at why the time is right. 

Shakespeare’s Globe is hosting its first international festival on Shakespeare and Race. Several questions spring to mind when putting together a festival of this nature at Shakespeare’s Globe:

How does Shakespeare’s work engage with race, racism and people of colour? What was the early modern experience of race? How do modern productions of plays that are preoccupied with race tackle the topic? How do theatre artists engage or not engage with it? Do actors, directors, designers, composers and musicians of colour have access to the same opportunities to pursue a career in theatre and to maintain their careers? How does unconscious bias enable white actors to have the advantage when it comes to costume design, lighting and set design? In other words, do creatives responsible for these arts always think consciously about taking into account skin colour when designing a show? What does it mean to be a person of colour and study, teach, perform, produce and read Shakespeare?

These and many more questions will arise during and beyond the festival – though there is no guarantee of finding answers. Indeed, more questions may be provoked.

Why should Shakespeare’s Globe be concerned with the topic of race now? As an international centre with iconic theatre spaces and a global presence, we aim to explore the ways in which Shakespeare’s plays, his theatres and his moment can be put into dialogue with the present and with issues that we face now in the 21st century, including and especially issues that relate to social justice.

The peer-reviewed journal Shakespeare Quarterly addressed the topic in a special issue. The editors, Kim F Hall (our Sam Wanamaker Fellow, 2018) and Peter Erickson, set some clear objectives for scholars to consider in the advancement of race studies: one of which states the need for “more studies of race and performance that themselves theorise/critique race rather than simply document the activities of people of color in the service of proving Shakespeare’s universality”.

In part, this festival, and, in particular, the symposium that will conclude it, is a direct response to this article’s call for action. In this festival, we want to ask questions about race, but not in a tokenistic way, and not in a way that suggests we are ticking a box or somehow trying to be ‘trendy’.

The aims of the festival are to invite scholars and artists of colour to speak on this topic openly and provocatively; to test our assumptions about theatre practice and racially diverse casting; to examine what it means to be a scholar or an artist of colour in 2018; to interrogate ourselves and the way in which we privilege white history, white authors and the landmark buildings, monuments

and canons that perpetuate such privilege. How can we turn Shakespeare’s Globe upon itself and ask its occupants and supporters to consider Shakespeare not as a model of universality, but as a site of reflection and empowerment? As a collection of works to jump into and scratch around in rather than merely adore, revere and worship?

The topic of race in Shakespeare is a growing field in America that young, emerging scholars of colour are making important contributions to. In the UK, there is less work being carried out in race studies at undergraduate and postgraduate level. One reason for our conference and its deliberate focus on the US and the UK is to find a way to develop the topic on both sides of the Atlantic.

Being able to listen to scholars who have been working in this field for decades and to hear from activists and thinkers like Kimberlé Crenshaw (American civil rights advocate and a leading scholar of critical race theory) and Luke Harris (director of programs and chairman of the board of directors of the African American Policy Forum raises the stakes of this festival.

Shakespeare’s Globe is at a point in its two-decade long history where it is reflecting upon itself as a cultural organisation; this festival is in part a response to the need for the Globe’s own evolving identity to emerge more fully as one that questions, interrogates and celebrates the potentially transformative impact that Shakespeare has on those who study, perform, read and enjoy his plays with their extraordinary, contradictory, troublesome and, most often, challenging themes.

Shakespeare and Race runs from 11-18 August at Shakespeare’s Globe taking in performances, talks, symposiums and panel discussions.  

publictheater: The Public Theater’s Free Shak…


The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park production of Much Ado About Nothing, performed on the Delacorte Theater stage in Central Park. Cast features include Brian Stokes Mitchell, Hamish Linklater, Ismenia Mendes, Jack Cutmore-Scott, Kathryn Meisle, LIly Rabe, and Steel Burkhardt. Directed by Jack O’Brien.  PC: Joan Marcus.

Creative Team: Set, John Lee Beatty; Light, Jeff Croiter; Costume, Jane Greenwood; Sound, Acme Sound Partners; Composer, David Yazbek; Music Conductor, Nathan Koci; Hair & Wigs, Tom Watson; Production Stage Manager, Chris De Camillis.

publictheater: The Public Theaters’s Free Sha…


The Public Theaters’s Free Shakespeare in the Park production of As You Like It at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park during the 2011-2012 season. Directed by Daniel Sullivan, As You Like It features performers Andre Braugher, Lily Rabe, Renee Elise Goldsberry, and Stephen Spinella. PC: Joan Marcus

Creative Team: Set, John Lee Beatty; Light, Natasha Katz; Sound, Acme Sound Partners; Original Music, Steve Martin; Additional Music, Greg Pliska; Music Director, Tony Trischka; Costumes, Jane Greenwood; Wigs, Tom Watson; Fight Choreographer, Rick Sordelet; Choreographer, Mimi Lieber; Production Stage Manager, M. William Shiner

The Winter’s Tale in rehearsal. In a fit of groundless jealousy,…

The Winter’s Tale in rehearsal. 

In a fit of groundless jealousy, Leontes wrecks his marriage, defies the gods, destroys his family and ruins himself. As the years roll around, a new generation flee their own country and take refuge in Sicilia. Unknowingly they bring with them the key to the past, present and future… 

Directed by Blanche McIntyre (the Comedy of Errors, 2014; As You Like It, 2015) 

Opens 22 June with a Midnight Matinee on Friday 13 July. Find out more.

Photography: Marc Brenner 

What a coincidence On June 10th, 2013, Yeni Şafak, a…

What a coincidence 

On June 10th, 2013, Yeni Şafak, a pro-government Turkish newspaper came out with the main headline ‘WHAT A COINCIDENCE’. Under the headline it said ‘New information has come to light that the Gezi Park Protests which have been turned into a civil coup attempt, were plotted: With the support of a UK based agency, the protests were rehearsed for months, in the play called ‘Mi Minör’ which was staged in Istanbul.’ The sub-headline was ‘First on stage then in Taksim’ and under that, there was a photo from the play and below was the poster of the play which had my picture on it.

Mi Minör was a theatre play, written by Meltem Arikan in which a Role Playing Game that could be played by both online and in-house audiences, was integrated into the live performance. The show was live streamed and online audiences could influence the action as much as the in-house audience. I was the director and the co-lead of the play. The female lead was Pinar Ogun. (We are married by the way.)

The play was set in a country called Pinima that had been ruled by The President for god knows how many years. The action of the play took place when The Pianist suddenly became aware of the oppression in her country after the police banned her piano. The audience could choose to play the ‘President’s Freedom in a Box deMOCKracy game‘ or support the Pianist’s rebellion against the system.

48 days after the last performance, on June 1st, 2013, the protests that had started in Gezi Park became a nationwide uprising in Turkey. The Turkish Government claimed the protests weren’t about protecting trees, but evidence of an international conspiracy of secret powers planning a coup.

During and after the Gezi Park protests the distinction between art and reality broke down as the political situation in Turkey began to resemble the absurdist world of Pinima. We, the creative team, were accused by government officials and pro-government media of being the ‘architects’ of the uprising as part of an international conspiracy to launch a coup against the government, and the play ‘a rehearsal’ for the events that started in Gezi. The subsequent hate campaign forced us to fear for our lives and to leave the country.

When I was asked to contribute with a blog that ‘explores freedom of expression and power of theatre’ I remembered the press conference I had to make after the aforementioned newspaper came out with the headline about our play. After categorically refuting all the absurd allegations about myself, the creative team and the play, I thanked the newspaper for taking theatre so seriously and for believing that a theatre play can be a driving force for such a large scale social phenomenon. Whether theatre still has that ‘power’ to ‘affect change in the social and political landscape’ or not is a question most theatre-makers ask themselves or discuss with one another. We give examples from Shakespeare and how he affected change, we talk about 1920s Berlin and then most of the time we come to the conclusion that our time is not the same and affecting change in the social and political landscape is very limited, if possible at all. Nevertheless, we never stop trying, we start working on a new project hoping to affect change. When I thanked the newspaper it was, of course, an irony, but now I think that their headline was perhaps a reminder, that we must revive our faith in our art form which is still being seen as a threat by the ones who don’t want change.

Director and actor in Mi Minor, Memet Ali Alabora will be on the panel of Shakespeare Under the Radar in which we celebrate daring artists who stage Shakespeare expressly to challenge political authority.

1968 and Theatre CensorshipFifty years ago this month, the…

1968 and Theatre Censorship

Fifty years ago this month, the Sunday Times reviewed the new ‘American tribal love-rock musical’ which had just opened on Broadway. Hair was a protest – an attack by the young aimed at the Establishment, the Vietnam War, Capitalism, and the values of the older generation. The reviewer thought it was ‘the most refreshing, original and maverick entertainment… since West Side Story’, but suspected it ‘couldn’t conceivably be presented on any British stage’ – even though ‘our taboo-ridden, body-resenting, swearword-worried theatre will be poorer for its self-denial’.

The paper’s prediction was not wrong. When the script of Hair was submitted to the Lord Chamberlain in the hope of securing the licence it needed to be staged in Britain, it hit a brick wall: ‘this is a demoralising play’, frothed his secretary. ‘It extols dirt, anti-establishment views, homosexuality and free love, drug taking, and it inveighs against patriotism’. Male and female nudity was a definite no-no, while plans to involve the audience and ‘turn them on’ were offensive. One character in particular sent the officials’ hackles through the roof: ‘Claude…  is a man yet he sings of his tits and his “arse” and he has bad times like a woman’, choked the secretary. ‘Presumably a roaring pansy’.  Well, the Lord Chamberlain’s powers to censor theatre were abolished a few months later, and Hair opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre the following night. The Lord Chamberlain even turned down an invitation to appear on stage with the cast for ITV’s Eamonn Andrews Show.  

So September 1968 marked the end of a system of control – cursed by playwrights from Shaw to Osborne to Tennessee Williams and Edward Bond  – that had lasted for 237 years. It had been introduced in 1737 by Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole because he was fed up with the stage being used to make fun of him and his government. And it required that no new play could be publicly performed until the script had been formally approved by the Lord Chamberlain. I became fascinated by this history – and particularly the twentieth century part of it – around thirty years ago, when I discovered there was an individual archived file on every single new play, and I’ve been reading these ever since. And because the censorship applied to everything from professional theatre to student revues to Women’s Institute and amateur society productions, this could be anything up to around 900 files per year!

As you can imagine, it took me a while to get through them, but I’m pretty certain that now I’m the only person who has read (or probably will ever read!) through every single one. And it would take me even longer to explain how fascinating it was. You see, not so very many plays were absolutely and totally banned, but many hundreds had scenes cut, lines changed, characters removed, costumes – or even lighting – altered, by the demands of the Lord Chamberlain. Often there was extensive correspondence between St James’s Palace (where the Lord Chamberlain was based) and playwrights, theatre managers, government departments, church leaders and members of the public. From Ibsen to Shaw to Strindberg to Pirandello to Rattigan to Lillian Hellman – even to Arthur Miller and Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter – all of them had licences withheld unless and until they agreed to make the cuts he demanded.

Sometimes the contents of the files made me laugh – I can honestly say I’ve never seen so many photographs of nude and nearly-nude women, as the Lord Chamberlain bent his brain to decide which costumes and poses he should allow and which refuse for the Windmill Theatre (often signing his approval across their bodies!). Can you believe that Noel Coward was censored because the Lord Chamberlain feared his plays might encourage a Soviet-style revolution in Britain? Or Sophocles’ Oedipus because he was worried audiences might go home and commit incest? But there were also serious and appalling discoveries. Who knew that right through the 1930s – until the day war was declared in 1939 – you couldn’t stage plays critical of Hitler or the Nazis?

As one MP put it in May 1968, abolition of the Lord Chamberlain’s rule was ‘a considerable Parliamentary achievement for which not only we in the House of Commons, but generations of playwrights yet to come, as well as theatre audiences, will have reason to be grateful’. That was then; this is now.

Professor Stephen Nicholson is a panellist for Censorship: Then and Now, on 17 May – part of our Shakespeare & Censorship series.