It was on the corner of Park Street and Bear Gardens on London’s Bankside that film director and actor Sam Wanamaker (1919-93) found a disused warehouse. And it was here that he established his first base as he developed his plans to build a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, which eventually opened in 1997.
Patrick Spottiswoode was appointed director of Globe Education in 1984. This has become one of the largest arts education departments in the country and has now moved back into Wanamaker’s radically refurbished original site, whose freehold has been secured.
The Sackler Studios include four workshop spaces and one full-scale rehearsal room - carefully designed to be just slightly larger than the stage area of the Globe itself - as well as offices, a green room, a seminar/music room and a café. At the request of the Southwark schoolchildren consulted on its design, it also incorporates a number of curved oak walls to echo the architecture of the nearby Globe.
The facilities will provide a focus for a wide-ranging educational programme ranging from primary schools to universities, not to mention outreach projects such as an initiative taking Shakespeare into Lebanese schools as a tool for conflict resolution. Since younger children come earlier in the day, the space is free for others to use after 3.30pm.
In the 1980s, says Mr Spottiswoode, the Globe worked much more closely with American than British universities. Even today, 12-15 drama students from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, spend the third of their four years there, rehearsing and performing both in the studios and on the Globe stage.
Globe Education’s resident academic is the head of courses and research, Farah Karim-Cooper, who is also co-convenor of the Globe/King’s College London MA in Shakespeare studies, now in its 11th year. The unit on “playhouse practice” is taught by her on site. Since January, she has been teaching a module on contemporary performance practice at the Globe for Birkbeck, University of London. Karim-Cooper also supervises PhD students and is leading research on the project to build an additional Jacobean theatre.
The smart new premises and the impact agenda are likely to offer further incentives and opportunities for academics to get involved at Shakespeare’s Globe. Twenty-eight of them are taking to the stage with actors to provide pre-performance introductions to the four Shakespeare plays and Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, which form part of the 2011 season, starting on 23 April.
A recital of the complete text of the King James Bible will take place between Palm Sunday and Easter Monday (17-25 April) to celebrate its 400th anniversary. This will be followed by a number of related lectures by academics under the rubric “The Heard Word: Pulpit vs Playhouse” between June and August.