Live Performances Coming to a Movie Theater Near You



Who has not heard of Shakespeare?

Who has not wished to experience the great romance of Romeo and Juliet or the laughter of Taming of the Shrew or the tragedy and intensity of Hamlet? (Even those who do not appreciate the sheer beauty of Shakespeare’s prose have enjoyed a modern day adaptation of his great writing.)

With that being said . . . Live from Stratford-upon-Avon, its Richard II. Last May, the Royal Shakespeare Company announced that it would be live broadcasting three of Shakespeare’s plays across the globe. To achieve this, the RSC has teamed up with Picturehouse Entertainment. (Picturehouse, has previously broadcast live performances of the Bolshoi ballet from Moscow, using satellites to broadcast the performances internationally.)

This new venture is unlike anything the company has done before. While Gregory Doran, the RSC’s Artistic Director, has worked to create filmed versions of his directorial successes such as MacbethHamlet and Julius Caesar, they were just recreations of the stage productions. The idea is to bring Shakespeare to a global audience and in the way his plays were meant to be seen — on a stage. It also gives an international audience the chance to see a proper performance of a Shakespeare play by people who are devoted to the preservation of his work. Many people don’t go to see Shakespeare plays, but they may have seen films that are often reworked versions of Shakespeare’s plotlines, which can explain why the RSC has chosen to broadcast his history plays instead of the comedies or tragedies.

Irrespective of genre, what made Shakespeare’s originals plays so special were the ability to see actors make the beautiful words come to life. (Rejecting familiar plotlines, the excitement surrounding broadcasting a historical play is aided by an increasing interest in British history in the U.S. evidenced by television shows such as The White Queen.) While there are many movies that currently quote Shakespeare, there is something to be said for a live performance, and the excitement is palpable.

“I am looking forward to these new broadcasts, which are part of our commitment to celebrate our ‘one-room spaces’ in Stratford and capture the thrill of sitting in the audience and experiencing theatre live,” Doran explained of the excitement behind the project. Bringing the theater to the cinema is an amazing way to expose people to Shakespeare. Most people associate the theater with stuffy pretentious plays or garish Broadway musicals. By placing them in the familiar confines of a movie theater, the perceived pretention and garishness are removed and suddenly people are focusing on the words and the plot and not their level of comfort.

The first play to be screened is Richard II starring David Tennant (Doctor Who, Broadchurch) as the titular king and directed by Doran. Tennant starred in Doran’s stage and film version of Hamlet in 2008. Richard II is the first part of what is known as the Henriad. The Henriad is a quartet of plays that depict a specific time in English history and are interconnected to one another. The drama centers on the conflict between the rightful but detached King Richard II and Henry Bolingbroke. The next plays to be broadcast are Henry IV Part 1 and Henry IV Part 2, both of which will be broadcast in June 2014; they are the second and third plays in the Henriad.

As well as extending their talents to people across the globe, the RSC is also including a making of film that will be updated weekly as they put the finishing touches on the performance and the live broadcast. The films feature interviews with the director, cast and historians who put the play into context. The weekly updates can be found here:

So, in 1590, people flocked to The Globe Theatre to see an original play written by Shakespeare. Today, there is no need to hop a plane and fly to England as the plays will be screened in several theaters in the New York area including Cinemas 123 in New York City, Ridge Hill in Yonkers, and the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville. While the play doesn’t open until October, it will not be screened in these locations until the first two weeks of December. Specific dates and locations can be found here: