Friday, 17 July 2009

Shakespeare Centre Library, Stratford-upon-Avon

Slideshow of Stratford-upon-Avon and Shakespeare fun!

“I, now am I in Arden, the more foole I,
when I was at home I was in a better place,
but Travellers must be content.”
~As You Like It, Act 2 Scene 4

Day 8: Friday. We have been here one week and today we had a bus trip to see the Shakespeare Centre Library in Stratford-upon-Avon, “beautiful Britain in bloom.”


We ate well in Stratford-upon-Avon, probably the best I’ve eaten all week. Had lunch with friends at an Italian restaurant.

friends at lunch

We saw Shakespeare’s birthplace on the way to the Library. The “Bard of Avon” was born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Shakespeare's birthplace

The Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive is a free resource library operated by The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. There are 12 staff, with five full-time librarians. The library is funded by donations to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Shakespeare Centre Library

Shakespeare Centre Library

The Shakespeare Collection and the Local Collections cover all aspects of the life and works of William Shakespeare and the history of his native town of Stratford-upon-Avon. The library adds about 400 titles a year. There is no access to 1,000 early printed books from the 1700s. Most of the materials, including manuscripts, photos, videos, music and reviews, are housed in climate-controlled stacks. One half of Shakespeare’s plays are printed on Quartos. No two copies are alike.

The library maintained a card catalog until 2001, and everything acquired since is online. There are 300,000 photos on the Royal Shakespeare Company Image Database.

movable stacks

Especially exciting for me was to see the collections of materials from the Royal Shakespeare Company dating back to 1879. In the underground stacks, we got to see shelves of Prompt books, which is the master script for the Stage Manager. These were beautifully archived with the Stage Manager’s original notes and sketches. My senior project for my undergrad was to write a Stage Manager’s Handbook! Any actor, director or stage manager considering a production would certainly want to look at these archived Prompt books to see how the play has been done in that Theatre in the past.

Prompt books!!!

After the library, I followed along with classmates shopping and exploring charming Stratford-upon-Avon. We had dinner at The Encore, it was really delicious. I recommend the puddings and Blackcurrant Cider! Even the doors of the bathroom stalls were giant Shakespeare bookends!

The Encore

bathroom stalls

dinner with friends at The Encore

I did Theatre as more than a hobby in my undergrad days, so I was also thrilled that we were going to see As You Like It by the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. It was also an extra perk to see As You Like It-related materials during our tour of the Shakespeare Centre Library, such as the title page of As You Like It in the 1623 First Folio and the RSC costume sketch from 1961.

As You Like It, 1623

As You Like It, costume, 1961

“Rosalind, the longest part Shakespeare wrote for a woman has attracted many of the greatest actresses of each generation.” (quote from As You Like It display at Shakespeare Centre Library)

The production was excellent, one of the best Shakespeare productions I've seen. It was really neat to view the round theatre and thrust stage. It was long, three hours and 20 minutes! The play started out cold, stark, dark and uniform. As the plot developed, the characters, scenery, lighting and costumes began to lighten and become enchanted. It was also interesting to note the costumes and scenery became more modern as the play progressed. It was a special moment for me to hear the line "All the world's a stage," especially considering my new perspectives from traveling abroad for the first time.

I really liked Stratford-upon-Avon; it had a whimsical feel to it. I can see how the picturesque English Tudor architecture and colorful blooms inspired Shakespeare, especially conjuring magical forests like Arden in As You Like It, and the enchanted forest of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

On the bus home, I began to discover the joys of flavored potato chips like Prawn Cocktail and Worchestire. We began sampling British candy. Megan turned me on to the chips and she had a great idea for a candy tasting party! Coming soon! I also picked up some Harry Potter en de Halfbloed Prins trading cards in Dutch!

Harry Potter en de Halfbloed Prins

Pictures of Stratford-upon-Avon and Shakespeare fun!

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