WHILE in town for “The Comedy of Errors,” John Bell has announced that Bell Shakespeare is to stage its first-ever Shakespeare festival—at The Canberra Theatre Centre.
The inaugural Festival will have three tiers, a ‘Directors’ Weekend’ for teachers in June, ‘Guided Rehearsals’ in schools under the guidance of Bell Shakespeare artists between August to October and a festival week where school groups will perform at the theatre in November.
Bell told those at the theatre for the opening of “The Comedy of Errors,” that his motto was “get up and do it” and the company was determined to help teachers be a part of that.
According to Bell’s Head of Education, Joanna Erskine: “This festival is about empowering young people through Shakespeare; giving them the chance to own these stories and imagine them anew and perform on a professional stage, guided by this country’s most experienced Shakespeare artists,” adding that it was also about mentoring teachers and developing their skills as directors and arts champions.
Bruce Carmichael, the director of Canberra Theatre Centre said, “It’s a great opportunity for young Canberra arts enthusiasts to gain experience from real professionals, in a real theatre environment.”
Each year the festival will focus on a Shakespeare play, adapted by Bell Shakespeare into three 30-minute sections. In 2014 the play will be one of the best-known, “Macbeth”. Schools will submit applications for participation in the Festival, with six schools being selected to perform over two nights at the theatre.
After the application and selection process, Bell Shakespeare’s arts educators will work with each chosen school. At least two teachers in each school will take responsibility for the direction of the production, and will attend the formidable “Macbeth Bootcamp” before the guided rehearsals that will run over the course of a term.
Technical sessions will also be run by Canberra Theatre Centre staff, taking the teachers through the technical, set and staging requirements of the venue.
As well, schools will be encouraged to take a cross-curricular, multi-disciplinary approach to staging the plays, involving music, dance, media arts and design.
At the completion of the rehearsal period, a dress run of each section will be performed at each school before schools transfer to Canberra Theatre Centre ahead of the Festival week.
Bell Shakespeare began in Canberra in 1991 and The Playhouse is its favourite theatre, a point not lost on Carmichael, who says, “we’re so pleased that our city has been chosen as the first of hopefully many more festivals in the future.”
Festival information will be sent to Canberra schools during November 2013 and the festival week will take place in November 2014.