‘Shakespeare on the Road’ Oral History Archive
A research update from William Wolfgang, Ph.D. Candidate at University of Warwick
In the United States of America, there are over 350 performing organisations that specialise in the work of William Shakespeare. Hailing from all fifty states in the nation, these Shakespeare theatres comprise a diverse range of organisational models and philosophies. The groups not only provide entertainment and artistic opportunity but are often woven into the social fabric of their local communities.
Approximately one-third of these groups are totally volunteer performance organisations that produce what I am identifying as ‘grassroots Shakespeare.’ During my visits to grassroots theatres, I have observed a strong sense of artistic freedom, collective production responsibility, and an inclusive philosophy which cultivates a deep sense of belonging between participants. From urban groups in the nation’s largest cities to organisations in America’s overlooked rural communities, such collective efforts provide some of the only contact with Shakespeare, or theatre at all, that many in their respective regions will ever experience. As a result, this project will explore Shakespeare performing groups regardless of their organisational size or location on a map.
I am conducting research which follows up from the hugely exciting and successful ‘Shakespeare on the Road’ project (2014-2016), a collaboration between the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT), the University of Warwick, and Misfit Inc. Around 150 people were audio-interviewed about making Shakespeare theatre across North America, a major oral-history now held in the SBT’s digital archive.
My research will significantly augment those ‘Shakespeare on the Road’ audio interviews by including at least one interview from each of the fifty states. What is already a valuable archive for performance scholars and Shakespeare enthusiasts, will through the addition of representative organisations from around the United States, become a more fully comprehensive account of Shakespeare in performance during the 2010s from all corners of the nation.
Find out more
Listen to William in conversation with Paul Edmondson and Paul Prescott as they discuss this compelling project, revealing shared attributes among the groups performing Shakespeare across the USA including a collective sense of responsibility and a commitment to social inclusivity, and in some cases, social activism.
I am writing my Ph.D. with the University of Warwick. My thesis supervisor is Paul Prescott, and Paul Edmondson (SBT) is acting as a Special Advisor.
University of Warwick