for the Rose: the timber framers workshop.
Playhouse’s the Thing
fully re-create the experience of a staging by William Shakespeare,
one would have to attend a performance at an Elizabethan playhouse.
The lack of such of a venue in the United States is being
remedied by Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass., which
has embarked on an audacious, multiphase, multimillion-dollar
endeavor to reconstruct the 1587 Rose Playhouse, the venue
of young Will’s early plays, including Henry VI and
Titus Andronicus. The company’s reconstruction will
be historically authentic from its hand-hewn timbers to its
thatched roof, and will include a pit for “groundlings.”
aim is to create a company that performs as the Elizabethans
did, in love with poetry, physical prowess, and the mysteries
of the universe,” says Shakespeare & Company artistic
director Tina Packard. “By recreating the Rose, we have a
unique opportunity to get to the essence of the Elizabethan
experience.” General audiences may be familiar with the rowdy
playhouse through its depiction in the Oscar-winning film
Shakespeare in Love. The three-story structure will
occupy a wide meadow on the company’s Kemble Street property,
and is scheduled to open in 2007.
Earlier this month, the company announced the findings of
the project’s first phase, two years of research and analysis
conducted by a British and American team of experts that includes
British architect Jon Greenleaf and master builder and timber
framer Peter McCurdy, both of whom worked on the re-creation
of the Globe Theatre in London. The Oct. 8 presentation drew
a crowd of 300. “It was incredible,” says Mary Guzzy, director
of the Rose Playhouse Project. According to Guzzy, one of
the more colorful facts to emerge was that the playhouse,
built by impresario Philip Henslowe, most likely began as
an arena for bear baiting and other public entertainments
such as sword fighting and juggling. The stage was probably
added later as plays became more popular. “Henslowe was an
entrepreneur,” says Guzzy. “Plays were just one kind of show.”
And yet Henslowe’s arena was integral to the flowering of
great drama during the Elizabethan era. “Before the Rose,”
she explains, “actors were itinerant, they traveled from trestle
stages—just a planked floor—to courtyards. ‘Theater’ was not
looked upon with respect.”
The Rose was built on the cusp of the Middle Ages and the
English Renaissance, when religious plays were opening up
to secular plays, leading to the great classical dramas of
Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe (who also used the Rose).
“Drama became so compelling that the form was taken more seriously,”
says Guzzy. The success of the Rose inspired the building
of bigger competitors, such as the Globe, the venue most commonly
associated with Shakespeare’s career.
But the Rose re-creation has several advantages, one of them
being that a great deal is known about it. Remarkably preserved
remains of the playhouse were discovered in 1989 during the
construction of an office building. Archeologist Julian Bowsher,
who worked on the site’s excavation for the London Museum,
is contributing to the Rose project. The team also has access
to Henslowe’s detailed documents on the Rose, which he donated
to Dulwich College.
Another of the company’s advantages is its 64-acre property
in the Berkshires. “We have a beautiful site that approximates
the bankside of the Thames in Suffolk during Shakespeare’s
time,” says Guzzy. “Suffolk today is completely urbanized.”
The Rose Playhouse will be set in an Elizabethan village circa
1590, complete with medieval gardens, lanes and streams. Village
buildings will house a museum with exhibits on the playhouse’s
creation; classroom and rehearsal space; and working artisans’
shops where leather and armor work, costumes, stonework and
printing will be produced and sold.
The Rose Playhouse Project team was put together by Packard
and renowned British theater designer Iain Macintosh, who
designed the company’s Founder’s Theater. According to Guzzy,
the biggest surprise from the research phase was the Rose’s
smallish dimensions, about 72 feet in diameter. The project
aims to reproduce the original, 14-sided configuration, with
three tiers of gallery seating and an open space for groundlings.
“The Rose will allow audiences to experience Shakespeare as
the Elizabethans did, because it will have the feel, the intimacy,
of the stage being surrounded by a sea of faces standing in
front and looking up, and in the balconies looking down,”
says Guzzy. Henslowe’s diary records audiences of 1,500 people,
a packed-like-sardines attendance figure the company is not
going to replicate. The Rose will hold about 700 patrons,
and groundlings will be limited to a comfortable 200, although
Guzzy says the company will encourage the boisterous enthusiasm
of Tudor audiences.
Over the summer, the project held an educational timber-framing
workshop to construct a cart shed by traditional English building
methods—in effect a practice run for the playhouse. How the
shed holds up over a New England winter will influence the
design phase. “We need to see the maintenance required before
the architectural drawings are refined,” says Guzzy, adding
that if authentic materials such as lime-washed plaster and
wattle and daub can’t withstand the weather, they will have
to be modified. For now, the team plans on duplicating the
Rose’s thatched roof with custom-grown rye from Pennsylvania.
The project recently received $1 million in federal funds
for education and training programs; another $1 million toward
the $10 million needed has been pledged by an anonymous family
foundation. Major construction is scheduled to begin in 2005.
That’s not all that long a time frame for a project of this
magnitude: As Guzzy points out, the Globe re-creation took
30 years to complete. The replicated Globe is now the most
successful theater in London, drawing an average of 250,000
visitors a year.
The Rose Village will be a year-round destination expected
to attract visitors from all over the world. “What this unique
project can do for our regional economy is huge,” says Guzzy.
Fund-raising efforts will not lack for glamour: The project’s
honorary president is Dustin Hoffman. Guzzy relates that Hoffman
was intrigued by the Rose archeology site during his run in
London as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.
The Rose project is expected to contribute a new understanding
of Tudor playhouses, as well as expanding the creative horizons
of Shakespeare & Company. “This is Tina’s brilliant vision
of the challenges our company has been exploring in regard
to the actor-audience relationship,” enthuses Guzzy. “To have
the playhouse as accurate as possible addresses that challenge
and expands our research.”
star in Asia: Jillian Shanebrook.
Shanebrook, a Niskayuna native, dreamed of having an adventure
in the Far East after a friend came back from a trip to Indonesia
and told stories about the amazing time she had. Determined
to go to Indonesia, and to experience it less as a tourist
and more through the eyes of a native, Shanebrook explored
her options and decided to apply to a program through Princeton
University, which would provide her with the opportunity to
go to Indonesia to teach English to university professors.
When she found out she was accepted, she jumped on a plane.
living and teaching in Indonesia, Shanebrook made some friends
who worked in the fashion industry, and they invited her to
participate in one of their runway shows. She was received
well, and on a whim, she sent some photos of herself to some
magazines. Suddenly, Shanebrook found herself on her way to
becoming an Indonesian supermodel.
never would have had the guts to do this in the U.S.,” Shanebrook
admits. “I felt a huge freedom to reinvent myself.” Because
she is only 5 feet 7 inches tall, Shanebrook says that she
wouldn’t have been supermodel material here in the States.
However, in Indonesia, she was a rarity, and had little competition
in the modeling world.
Shanebrook’s celebrity status grew until she was internationally
famous in Asia. Her face was on the cover of numerous magazines,
and she even started writing a travel column for some publications.
She found her popularity thrilling, but she didn’t want to
have that status for the rest of her life. “It’s great being
famous in another country,” Shanebrook says, “because you
With a movie deal and clothing line in the works, it looked
like Shanebrook was just at the beginning of her career as
an Indonesian celebrity. However, when the Indonesian economy
fell apart in the mid-’90s, so did the funding for her projects.
Shanebrook came back to the United States and decided to share
her experience with the world by writing a book about what
she learned being a model and a teacher in a foreign country.
The book, Model: Life Behind the Makeup, relays her
traveling experiences and her life as an Indonesian superstar.
Her book is organized as a travel journal might be, and it
includes lots of color photographs of her trips and photo
Shanebrook now holds master’s degrees in Asian studies and
development economics and teaches English at Brooklyn College.
She’s been busy promoting Model, and as an extra incentive
to buy the book, she has set up a contest on her Web site,
www.jilianshane brook.com; the winner gets to be taken out
by Shanebrook herself for a night on the town in New York
As part of a book tour to support Model, Life Behind the
Makeup, Shanebrook will visit her hometown and the Barnes
& Noble on Wolf Road today (Thursday, Oct. 17) at 7 PM
for a book talk and signing.