Ann Arbor, MI, the town where a young Arthur Miller cut his playwriting teeth, is ground zero in the United States for The Royal Shakespeare Company's landmark new cycle of Shakespeare's History plays, March 10-18.
The RSC is performing the works exclusively in the U.S. at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. RSC Associate Director Michael Boyd's acclaimed productions of Henry VI, Parts I, II and III and Richard III are co-presented by the RSC and the University Musical Society and the University of Michigan.
The works are "accompanied by a wide-reaching education program," specially devised by RSC Director of Education Clare Venables.
This RSC-UM partnership is being called an important development for the RSC: "a model for the Company to build a more active university presence in the United States," according to a statement.
In 2001, the RSC will visit Virginia with The Tempest and Washington, D.C., with the RSC/ Young Vic co-production of A Servant to Two Masters. An ensemble of 30 actors in the four Shakespeare productions play the Power Center for the Performing Arts in Ann Arbor directly from Stratford-upon-Avon, before transferring to London. The theatrical event is the centerpiece of the University Musical Society's first theatre series in its 122-year history, making good on its mission to present international performances from multiple artistic disciplines.
"The RSC last performed in Michigan in 1913, during the Company's first-ever visit to the U.S. with Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V," said Adrian Noble, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, in a statement. "I am delighted that The Histories are, once again, heralding the start of an important new partnership between the RSC and North America."
This England — The Histories plays March 10-18. Tickets and further information are available through http://www.ums.org/rsc.htm.
Ann Arbor has a rich tradition in theatre, but is only just starting to show the signs of healthy, consistent resident work with the establishment of a regular Equity season being staged by the Performance Network, which opened a new home in fall 2000.
Arthur Miller studied at UM and wrote plays and earned a famous Hopwood Playwriting Award at the University of Michigan. Playwright Avery Hopwood (1882-1928) was a major arts alum of UM, although his work has become obscure. Ellis Rabb's Association of Producing Artists (APA) had a residency in the city before moving on. British director John Russell Brown was one of the leaders of a brief resident professional troupe at UM in the 1980s. Critic Benedict Nightingale taught criticism there in the 1980s. UM president Lee Bollinger recently announced an initiative to create the Arthur Miller Theatre on campus, which would house student and resident professional work. Miller agreed to offer his name to the building if and when the funding is raised.
— By Kenneth Jones