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Anyone for a Shakespeare Retreat?

As some of you know, I am currently completing a PhD on Shakespeare and Candlelight at the University of Birmingham. Having completed final drafts of the Introduction and Blackfriars Playhouse section, I am now working on the final draft of my chapter on The Tempest - exploring the ways in which candlelight would have affected the appearance and impact of costumes in that play. It is an exciting time, personally, as I approach the point at which I will be able to commit to submitting my thesis for examination in 2024, but it is also an exciting time for A Place to Write as possibilities for an extension in our retreat programme emerge...

Shakespeare surrounded by candles writing in a book

There are so many ways in which Shakespeare could feature at the heart of a retreat programme, each covering a wide range of interests, knowledge and skills. For example, a retreat for beginners: no prior knowledge required! This might comprise an introduction to the writer's life; why he is considered important; how to approach his works; how to deal with the difficulties of his language and ideas; discovering the joy of understanding and appreciating his stories and plays.

Or what about a retreat that focuses on a single play text and is aimed at general Shakespeare enthusiasts? This would, presumably, incorporate a play reading with associated discussion and debate, alongside specialist workshops or lectures on the aspects of the play's language, themes, characters and stage history. Film showings and perhaps even a trip to a performance of the play would add to the experience.

An actor in a grand blue and red military-type costume, performing Hamlet's scene with Yorick's skull, which is in his outstretched left hand

But, elsewhere on the scale, a retreat for teachers who want to develop their confidence in teaching a set text to students might look very different. It could include some of the above but would presumably focus on workshops exploring tools for teaching shakespeare, and bringing texts alive through performance, adaptation and creative exploration. And what about a retreat for anyone who wants to study a play in detail and have a chance to rehearse and work on a speech or scene for performance in a grand finale at the end of the retreat? And what about writers who might want to see the ways in which Shakespeare's plays and poems provide perfect models and structures for storytelling and communication everywhere?

Group of actors seated randomly on a stage looking towards and listening to their director who is in the foreground reading from some notes on a clipboard

The possibilities are endless but which would most people be most interested in? Or is there an option which is not covered anywhere above, but which would be a sure-fire winner? Of course, the market for a Shakespeare retreat might be vanishingly small but even if we only offered 8-10 places on such a retreat, once a year, I would be delighted to offer it - fulfilling, as it would, both personal and professional goals.

So, what do you think? Do you know anyone who might be interested? What would they be interested in? Most importantly, would you or they be prepared to respond to a brief online survey to help us collate some meaningful data on the project? If you would, watch this space: we are already building a survey and will be publicising it to all our followers and a wider audience in due course. Or drop us a line TODAY via to let us know your throughts. Any input will be most gratefully received and considered!

Nic Brownlie

A Place to Write

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