Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Day 24 – The Globe Theatre

On our last day of formal study, we visited the Archives of the Globe Theatre, which is a modern reconstruction of Shakespeare’s 16th-century theatre with a repertoire of Shakespeare and other plays. It is located on the bank of the Thames and consists of a theatre and education center (see website).
The Globe, during King Lear
The Archives consist of four categories: materials from Sam Wanamaker’s 23-year quest to get the Globe built; physical objects from exhibitions that include some large items such as models and a printing press; performance archives that include 25 years of rehearsal notes, stage and wardrobe notes, photos, programs, recordings, and music; and a library collection that includes books and scholarly publications that support Shakespeare and his peers, focusing on theater and performance history. Shakespearean scholars and actors such as John Gielgud have donated their collections to the library. The card catalog is called Ariel and contains over 5,000 volumes. Every production has been filmed for the archive but these are not viewable online, although we got to see a few excerpts.
Globe Collection treasures
The Globe Theatre is an open-air setting so can only be used in reasonably good weather from about March through October (although an indoor theatre named for Wanamaker was added to the Globe complex in 2014). Those on stage can see every face in the audience and that intimacy changes the dynamic of the performance – a soliloquy becomes more of a conversation. This can also result in more audience participation than the actors are used to or comfortable with, so some are eager to return and some are not. The Globe is known for its innovation, for example, gender-blind performances such as an all-women of color performance of Richard II in 2018 and a staging of Twelfth Night in which actor Mark Rylance (a former artistic director) played Olivia (I was impressed to learn later that my friend Cath had seen Rylance in Romeo and Juliet early in his career). And, of course, in the performance we saw the previous night, Lear was played by a woman. During the preparation for the Globe reopening, the costume designers did months of research on the fabrics that would have been available in the 16th century with the goal of making costumes as authentic as possible. Library staff explained to us that actors perform differently in these costumes, so the needs of the action also have to be considered (sword fights, etc.).
Stage notes from Titus Andronicus,
complete with artificial blood
By the time the Globe officially opened in 1997 at a cost of $47 million, Prince Philip had been enlisted as a supporter of the project and had promised to bring the Queen. They arrived by barge, which thrilled everyone, for a performance of Henry V. Wanamaker and others recognized that the history of London is interconnected with the history of Shakespeare’s theatre and the development of an entertainment industry that continues to be influential worldwide. Interestingly, no one mentioned to us that Wanamaker was an American actor and producer. He was at risk of being blacklisted in Hollywood for his alleged Communist views so stayed in England in the 1950s and continued to build his career there. In the 1970s, his quest to rebuild the Globe began although locals wanted to develop the site for commercial use. Sadly, he died in 1993 before the restoration was complete.
16th century costume replica
After the tour, we ate at my favorite London chain restaurant, The Real Greek, which has a location near our dorm and one close to the Globe. Heading back to the tube, Erin pointed out the open gates of Southwark Cathedral, which had been locked every time we had previously passed so I went inside. It is an Anglican church that was mentioned in the Domesday Book and known as St. Mary Overie in its early days but renamed St. Saviour’s in the 16th century. A group of merchants bought it from James I and it became associated with the theatre world. When a new diocese was formed in 1905, it became Southwark Cathedral.
Southwark Cathedral; photo credit: Trip Advisor,
There was a gorgon minding the gate who said it was free to enter but if you wanted to take pictures you had to buy a £3 guide. “All right, thank you,” I said and headed on in, guideless, which upset this woman. Somehow she scared my friends off and I didn’t realize right away that they weren’t with me. So they headed off to Westminster Abbey and I went in to explore. It was a pretty church and a choir from South Carolina was practicing for a 2 pm performance, so it was a soothing place to spend some time.
The National Archives in Kew
I had wondered if the National Archives should be included in our academic visits so decided to go investigate this afternoon. I would have been better off returning to Westminster Abbey with Desiree, Amanda, and Erin, as it was one of the most boring places I have ever seen. A Jubilee exhibit had been taken down and not replaced and a Cabinet exhibit was just a table setting with biographies. Without an appointment to learn about its holdings, there was nothing to do. I left, shaking my head, and went to check out a well-known tea shop in the area. However, when I got there, I wasn’t in the mood, so kept on walking – considered visiting Kew Gardens but instead found Kew Bookstore, which was small but nice. I came across a mystery about Lady Lupin I had not read and decided it needed a new home so I would have something to read on the long tube ride back to Marylebone with multiple transfers. I chatted with a friendly woman who was going to Maryland for the weekend to see her daughter play for Wales in an international lacrosse tournament.
Miles walked: 4.1 miles
Books acquired: 1


Karen K. said...

I'm going to London in a few weeks and am definitely going to at least one performance at the Globe, very excited about it! Either Julius Caesar or Henry VIII, both if I can swing it. I went on the tour several years ago on a visit but there wasn't a Shakespeare performance that day, I've forgotten why.

Karen K. said...

And how exciting that you got to visit the archives!

CLM said...

I recommend TodayTix for reasonably priced tickets, although I think for the Shakespeare we used the Globe's site. You can even sort by what's available that evening if you don't like planning in advance but I got better seats by booking a few days in advance. Once I got upgraded from the second row from the back to a great seat middle front.