The Rebirth of Shakespeare's Globe | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
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The Rebirth of Shakespeare's Globe

It took an American actor to champion the rebuilding of a British cultural symbol

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After an absence of nearly 400 years from London's theater scene, Shakespeare's Globe rises again on the South Bank of the Thames River. Recreating this jewel in the crown of Elizabethan theater has been a 27-year epic adventure of dreams and disasters, starring the late American actor Sam Wanamaker.

Wanamaker, in partnership with American financial backers, wheedled and cajoled the British into rebuilding the Bard's theater. Using Elizabethan building techniques, architects re-created the 20-sided roofless theater with its whitewashed, half-timber walls and thatched roof crown. The plays are staged in much the same way as when Shakespeare's troupe produced them--without sets, decor, microphones or spotlights.

During opening season, the performers discovered the Globe was a new experience for them. The actors are intimately involved with the 1,500-member audience who feel free to interact with the players and rewrite the script, just as they did in the 16th century. The Globe itself is part of an ambitious $45 million Shakespeare center scheduled for completion in 1999.

About Richard Covington

Richard Covington is a Paris-based author who covers a wide range of cultural and historical subjects and has contributed to Smithsonian, The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, among other publications.

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