While they may be in the midst of a mega Shakespeare marathon now, Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company is going somewhat cold turkey after that and committing half their schedule to new work. This marks a new direction for the company by AD Michael Boyd, as reported by the Guardian.
The playwrights Marina Carr, Leo Butler and Roy Williams have all been recently commissioned by the RSC. But in a more far-reaching move, writers will be "embedded" within the company. The first of these, Adriano Shaplin, will be working with the actors who are preparing Shakespeare's history plays, all eight of which will be in the repertoire by spring 2008. The idea is for authors to write plays with a specific ensemble in mind, just as Shakespeare did. "It's a radical idea; but it is also our heritage," Mr Boyd said.
He hopes that the New Works festival, which is the present chief conduit for new plays staged by the RSC, will eventually "be rendered redundant as new work is sewn firmly into our repertoire".
Mr Boyd also said that his aim of reviving the notion of an old-fashioned ensemble company - rather than employing actors on short-term contracts as has become common practice in recent years - was becoming a reality.
"Our company of actors have committed to us for 2½ years," he said. "The received wisdom is that actors don't want to do that. I think that's tosh."
Shakespeare and the Chamberlain's Men, Chekhov and the Moscow Art Theatre, Odets and The Group, Lanford Wilson and Circle Rep, Mamet and the Goodman, even Pinter and the old RSC...a pretty good track record for this model. Yet another argument for rep companies. Or at least for institutions to support and sustain collaboration of like-minded artists over time.