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Friday, June 14, 2013

Happy Birthday Sam Wanamaker!


Happy Birthday Sam Wanamaker!

Mr. Wanamaker is the father of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London.

Without him, the theatre would arguably not exist.



He was a very well know American actor and director (and father to the famous actress Zoe Wanamaker) who first visited London in 1949, and immediately looked for the location of Shakespeare’s Globe.

Shakespeare’s original Globe burned down in 1613, but was rebuilt in 1614. That one was torn down in 1644, two years after the theatres had been ordered to be closed -- the same year that the English Civil War began.

Mr. Wanamaker couldn't believe that not only was there not a new Globe, but the only thing to remember the old Globe was a plaque on a wall!

In 1970, he started the Shakespeare Globe Trust in order to raise money and support to build a new Globe.

It seems that Mr. Wanamaker faced many obstacles: he couldn’t build the new Globe on the original site because of protected building, he couldn’t conduct any archaeology in order to study the exact dimensions of the old Globe, the Royal Family were “more or less supportive”, the local council was hostile, and even his British colleagues were skeptical!

It’s a miracle that it was ever built at all!

It also seems that Mr. Wanamaker put his whole body and soul, and no little amount of his own personal wealth, into the project.

It amazes me that it took so long. It took over 20 years to just start construction!



Once construction of the theatre began in 1993, it seems to have been made very quickly. In the same year, the first performances were played on a temporary stage.

In the summer of 1993, Mr. Wanamaker was made an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

But sadly, just as the construction was in full swing, Mr. Wanamaker died, on 18 December 1993, at the age of 74.

He did not live long enough to see the new theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, opened in 1997, with Queen Elizabeth herself at the inauguration.





But there is more.

At the moment, there is work underway to build a new theatre, linked to the new Globe. It will be a candlelit indoor theatre, modeled after Shakespeare’s Blackfriars theatre, which was a smaller theatre to perform plays in the winter.

It is called the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, and it will only seat 350 people at a time, compared to 1500 at the Globe.


Digital image of new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

They are already selling tickets for the very first shows, beginning with The Tempest (which begins on Shakespeare’s birthday 23 April 2014) followed by A Midsummer Night’s Dream (from 24 May) and Macbeth (from 22 June).

You can also donate to the theatre here:


I hope you join me today in remembering Sam Wanamaker, and his invaluable contribution to the memory and the history of Shakespeare.

Cheers,


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