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by Michael Portantiere

You're in the Armory Now!

  • RSC.jpg

    You're in the Armory Now!

    In what is sure to be the biggest theatrical event of 2011, the Lincoln Center Festival, in association with the Park Avenue Armory and The Ohio State University, will present the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) at the Armory for an unprecedented six-week residency in July and August next year. A joint announcement of this extraordinary endeavor was made this morning at Alice Tully Hall by Nigel Redden, director of the Festival; Reynold Levy, president of Lincoln Center; Rebecca Robertson, President and CEO of the Armory; and Michael Boyd, artistic director of the RSC.

    For this engagement, a full-scale replica of the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, where the RSC regularly performs, will be constructed in the Armory's 55,000 square foot drill hall (see rendering). The RSC ensemble will consist of 44 actors performing five plays that will be selected from the company's 2009-2010 U.K. repertoire of six plays: Antony and Cleopatra, As You Like It, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet, and The Winter's Tale. There be a total of 45 performances from July 6 through August 14, 2011.

    Opening this morning's press conference, Redden said: "When we began conversations with Michael Boyd, he not only challenged us with the idea of bringing a large group of actors to New York, he challenged us with the idea of bringing them to a theater that would reproduce the Courtyard in Stratford-upon-Avon in some way. We looked at various theaters, and could find nothing that would work. So we did the obvious, which was to agree to build a replica of the theater in New York. Of course, the only place that we could do this was at the Park Avenue Armory." Redden noted previous Festival presentations at the Armory, including Les Ephemeres and an extravagant production of the opera Die Soldaten; but he commented, "I don't think that we will do anything on quite so epic a scale as this residency of the RSC."

    Robertson said, "It's a huge thrill for the Park Avenue Armory to have the Royal Shakespeare Company in residence in New York. This role of co-presenter is new to us; it represents a recent commitment by our very dedicated board to invest more in artistic work that needs an unconventional space like ours. Completed in 1881 as both a military facility and a social club for the leaders of New York's gilded age, the Park Avenue Armory is one of country's historic treasures. Our soaring drill hall is one of the largest unobstructed spaces in the city, and it was designed to resemble a 19th-century European train shed, so it's a very beautiful structure. We believe that our space allows artists to create their own worlds and have audiences enter into them."

    Introduced to energetic applause, Boyd said, "It's a great honor to be given center stage in this city and in this Festival. You're going to have 44 very excited Shakespearean actors singing 'New York, New York' in just over a year's time. By 2011, [these actors] will have have been working together, fighting, hating each other, learning together, playing their roles, understudying for each other. Fifty-five-year-old, slightly grumpy actors will have learned to dance and do rope work, encouraged by their younger colleagues. In an age of rampant individualism, we are working hard to prove the virtues of collective theater-making."

    For more information on this and other Lincoln Center events, visit http://new.lincolncenter.org/live/.

    Published on Monday, February 8, 2010

    Michael Portantiere has more than 30 years' experience as an editor and writer for TheaterMania.com, InTHEATER magazine, and BACK STAGE. He has interviewed theater notables for NPR.org, PLAYBILL, STAGEBILL, and OPERA NEWS, and has written notes for several cast albums. Michael is co-author of FORBIDDEN BROADWAY: BEHIND THE MYLAR CURTAIN, published in 2008 by Hal Leonard/Applause. Additionally, he is a professional photographer whose pictures have been published by THE NEW YORK TIMES, the DAILY NEWS, and several major websites. (Visit www.followspotphoto.com for more information.) He can be reached at [email protected]

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