Three hundred and eighty-four years after a cannon fired during a performance of Henry VIII ignited a fire that burned William Shakespeare's original Globe Theatre to the ground, the restored theatre is opening a full new repertory season of plays. The season begins with Henry V, previewing May 27 and opening June 14.
A "preview" season of partially staged productions on the uncompleted stage in summer 1996. The upcoming season will be the first full one under artistic director Mark Rylance.
Performances will take place on the rebuilt Globe stage not far from the original theatre's site in London's Southwark district, fulfilling the dream of American Shakespeare lover Sam Wanamaker (1919-93), and the hundreds of people who have worked on the project to make his dream come true.
Here is the full schedule:
* Henry V by Shakespeare, previews 27 May, opens 14 June, closes 21 September
* The Winter's Tale by Shakespeare, previews 28 May, opens 19 June, closes 20 September
* The Maid's Tragedy by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, previews 20 August, opens 26 August, closes 19 September
* A Chaste Maid in Cheapside by Thomas Middleton, previews 19 August, opens 27 August, closes 20 September For tickets or information, contact The Globe Theatre: The Globe box office number is 011-44-171-401-9919.
Tickets cost £25.00 £20.00 £15.00 £10.00, plus a special £5.00 price for "groundlings" who will stand in the theatre's center court, as they did in Shakespeare's time.
Playbill On Line members toured the nearly-finished construction site in late July. Because no blueprints of the original structure exist, the design for the new theatre is based on contemporary sketches of the exterior, plus what is known of stagecraft in Shakespeare's time.
The theatre is in the shape of a wooden "o." with roofed galleries, but no roof over the central playing area. Performances in Shakespeare's time were given in mid afternoon, to take advantage of daylight. As a concession to modern theatregoing patterns, the space will have floodlights for evening performances. A flag will be raised over the theatre on performance days, just as it was in Shakespeare's time.
As far as possible, original building methods and materials were used in construction. The galleries are constructed of English Oak, using wooden pegs in place of nails. The balusters that line the galleries were turned on a hand-lathe powered by a bent sapling and a rope, as lathes were in the 1590s. Perhaps most surprising of all, the roof will be thatched, though the thatch (bundles of grasslike reeds) will be impregnated with fire retardant material.
Plumbing, however, will be modern.
The stage is configured as it was in Shakespeare's day, with an open thrust playing area. The inaugural production will take place on a temporary stage; a permanent one will be installed in 1997, taking into account the advice of the actors who will attempt to make theatre on the unorthodox stage this summer.
As in the original Globe, part of the audience will sit in galleries surrounding the stage; part will stand on the ground in front of the stage, reviving the tradition of the "groundlings."
Ticket prices have undergone a slight increase. Tickets in the early 1660s cost one penny for groundlings, two pennies for a seat, and three pennies for a seat with a cushion. In the new Globe, tickets will cost £5 (about $8.50) for Yard Entry (groundlings), up to £25 (about $43) for reserved seats. All seats -- spaces on long benches, actually -- are cushioned, though not all have backs.
The Globe complex includes a second, smaller theatre as well: the Inigo Jones Theatre, based on a design believed to be a Shakespeare-era original by architect Jones.
This is not the first time the Globe has been rebuilt. A new Globe rose on the site of the old in 1614, scarcely a year after the conflagration. But it was razed by theatre-hating Puritans in 1644. A road and a brewery now stand atop the original site a few hundred yards from where the new theatre has been built, adjacent to a promenade on the south bank of the Thames.
-- By Robert Viagas