Place

Place

There was a time when theatre space and city space were one, when playgoers could watch a play, look around, and see the place in which they lived. An ancient Athenian could peer down into the sacred grove of Dionysus; a medieval person would spy market, church, or town all around them; Elizabethan Londoners knew they lived in the place rendered in the theatre’s architecture. Indeed, audiences knew where they were. They were here, with all of the connotations of what that might mean: the world of the play was always the world of the place – the relationship between the two was inseparable.

The Medieval Theatre used this idea of place to arrange player and playgoer. The Platea or “Place” might be an open place for spectators to stand or sit close to a wagon or mansion, or it might be an open space where performers and spectators could mix and mingle. Whichever the case, Place was central. The Place involved the worlds of audience and player, watcher and the watched, the player and the play, and the place of the play and that of city, town, or square. It was atmosphere, reality, and container. In Raymond Williams’ understanding of the staging of Everyman, Everyman enters the action from the Platea – from the world of city, town, and individual – and exits the Places of this world for other realities of the next.

In modern theatre, for all sorts of reasons, the energies of Place have been drained from the regular indoor theatre experience. Audiences sit indoors and and engage the action from a personal psychoemotional experience, not from the energies and atmospheres of Place.

What would it mean to give Place, and the energies of Place, back to a play?

A central motivating purpose of Cymbeline in the Anthropocene is this very question. What would it mean to give Place back to Play, and to engage a play from that intersection?

The Covid-19 pandemic has now also complicated these questions of Place, closing down theatre activity through most of 2020 and early 2021 because of a placeless emergency, similar to that of global climate change. As theatres reopen, the exisitential and health threats of the virus will haunt their spaces and reshape their rehearsal and performance practices.

But one not entirely negative change is that some productions that would have taken place indoors before the pandemic will now be staged outdoors where the presence of Place, including the changing climate, is more visible and tangible. The pandemic may heighten our consciousness of the relationship between environmental place and playing space. The relationship will not be that of Medieval Theatre, but it may result in new forms of ecodramturgical consciousness and creativity. 

This project involves nine discrete and particular Places, which will result in ten radically different approaches to the material, as well as radically different Places to which the productions will traffic.

The Places of the Play are the following:

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

The Wildlife Sanctuary offers 'a unique outdoor laboratory for La Trobe University, that provides transformative experiences for its community.'

Tbilisi, Georgia

Karaganda, Kazakhstan

Capital of miners, straddling the banks of the Bukpa River in the Saryarka steppe of central Asia.   

Powys, Wales, UK

The Upper Wye valley. Red Kites, Sheep, Shakespeare at the Willow Globe/Glôb Byw: spirit and space in a living, growing theatre. 

Exeter, England, UK

A small cathedral city situated on the river Exe in the South West of England, stretching towards the English channel. Despite its mostly mild climate and rainy disposition, golden-pink light from stretched evening skies takes our breath away – as do the city’s hills.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

London, Ontario, Canada

Close to the Sherwood Fox Arboretum, with a wide diversity of plants and trees of the Northern Hemisphere, providing a beautiful natural setting for our Western Summer Shakespeare plays.

Montana, USA

Under the Big Skies, from Lush Mountains to Mythical Buttes.

Yosemite, California, USA

"The magnitudes of the rocks and trees and streams are so delicately harmonized, they are mostly hidden.” – John Muir

Santa Barbara, California, USA

Between the Mountains and the Sea. At the Edge of a Continent.