The Royal Shakespeare Company has announced plans for its biggest Shakespeare year ever with 14 of the bard's plays and shorter contracts for actors aimed at attracting more top talent.
Terry Hands, the subsidized theater's artistic director, unveiled a new "one-year, two-season work cycle" under which actors will commit themselves to one 60-week contract, playing the first half of the season at the company's home theater in Stratford-upon-Avon before transferring the productions to its London base at the Barbican.This replaces the two-year schedule in which actors spent one year at Stratford and the second in London.
The system is meant to encourage actors to join the company by allowing them the flexibility to couple stage work with the more lucrative film and television assignments that make long runs in the theater possible.
"It's not a change in the basic policy . . . It's a continuing experiment," said Hands, adding: "English actors do not like long runs."
He said the company will present 27 plays in London and Stratford.
The 1989 London season begins at the end of March with the transfers from Stratford of last year's mainstage and studio productions, which included John Wood as Prospero in "The Tempest" and a series of plays from, and about, the Restoration period.
Two new productions, to open in July and September respectively, will be revivals of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's "The Man Who Came To Dinner" and Henrik Ibsen's "The Master Builder," with Wood playing the doomed visionary, Solness.
The spring Stratford line-up begins April 11 with "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and includes Shakespeare's "Cymbeline," "Hamlet," and "Romeo and Juliet," before those productions in turn transfer to London in November.
At that point, two more productions enter the London repertory: a stage adaptation of Anthony Burgess's novel "A Clockwork Orange" and "Have," by Hungarian writer Julius Hay.
The autumn sees a new Stratford roster of "As You Like It," "All's Well That Ends Well," and "Antony and Cleopatra."
Besides Wood, actors announced for the upcoming season include such RSC veterans as Harriet Walter and Brian Cox, and promising young talents such as Mark Rylance, who will play Hamlet and Romeo, and David O'Hara.
American playwright Richard Nelson, who wrote the book for the short-lived Broadway musical "Chess," will open a new play, "Some Americans Abroad," in London in July.
This year marks the first time in four years that the company has no musical on tap. "Les Miserables," which opened at the Barbican in 1985, is an ongoing worldwide hit, but its revival of "Kiss Me, Kate" failed to transfer to the United States and its most recent musical, "Carrie," was a disaster, closing on Broadway after five performances.