Usually the tenure is marked by a public event, where the incumbent presents views on an aspect of contemporary theatre. In addition, workshops or seminars involving students take place throughout the year. However, it is very much up to the individual concerned as to how he or she approaches the tenure, and no teaching obligation is attached to the role. Previous holders of the post, which is founded through a grant from the Mackintosh Foundation at St. Catherine's College, have included Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Miller, Alan Ayckbourn, Richard Eyre, Phyllida Lloyd and Patrick Stewart.
In a press statement, Beale commented, "I am hugely looking forward to my year as Visiting Professor, and feel very honoured to have been asked. It allows me to indulge, even further, my obsessive interest in Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and I hope that the students I meet will enjoy our working together. I know for certain that I will learn a huge amount."
Beale, who was educated at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, has played the title roles in King Lear and Hamlet both at the National Theatre. He will next appear onstage in Temple, a new play at the Donmar Warehouse about the 2011 United Kingdom anti-austerity protests. As previously announced, it will begin performances May 21 prior to an official opening May 27.