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New Shakespeare partnership provides unique experience

UNG President Bonita Jacobs, center, signs a partnership agreement with Jeffrey Watkins of Atlanta Shakespeare Co., left, and Dr. Brent Griffin, assistant professor of English at UNG and creative director of Resurgens Theatre Co. to bring a unique Shakespeare learning opportunity to students and faculty.

As Shakespeare wrote, "All the world's a stage," and a new partnership gives University of North Georgia (UNG) students and faculty the opportunity to work with two Shakespearean theater companies and possibly become players on a period-inspired stage in Atlanta.

In an agreement signed Friday, Oct. 10, UNG established partnerships with the Atlanta Shakespeare Co., which was the first American company to perform on the stage of the famous Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London, England, and the Resurgens Theatre Co.

Both companies use an approach called "original practice," in which a play is presented in the manner and language it was originally written, whether penned by Shakespeare, his contemporaries or a modern playwright. That style, and the inclusion of works from other 16th- and 17th-century playwrights, makes the partnership a unique opportunity, said Dr. Brent Griffin, an assistant professor of English at UNG who will be facilitating the partnership.

"The Globe is just now branching off into their new, indoor Jacobean theater and starting to tackle some of these works, but we're keeping pace with them," Griffin said. "These contemporaries of Shakespeare – Marlow, Middleton, Fletcher, Johnson – we read them in our English classes, but the students never have an opportunity to experience them live on stage. We're going to give them that opportunity."

Griffin holds a doctorate in Renaissance drama and performance studies and is a past member of the research staff at the Globe theatre. Griffin also is president and artistic director of Resurgens.

The partnership gives UNG students priority consideration for internships and practicums with both companies. Faculty members also will be able to link productions to UNG course offerings, said Dr. Joyce Stavick, head of UNG's English department. She referenced "Macbeth," currently being directed locally by English professor Brian Corrigan and taught in multiple courses.

"Now, with the Atlanta Shakespeare Co., we're going to have so many more opportunities for that," she said. "For our students who are good students of text, interpretation and critical thinking, I think it's very important to see a play come alive, whether they participate or not."

Anita Turlington, associate department head, said the partnership will give graduates from UNG's English program critical knowledge that will put them at an advantage whether they going into teaching or pursuing graduate studies.

Jeffrey Watkins, president and artistic director of the Atlanta Shakespeare Company, said he's excited about the partnership, as the company has provided learning opportunities for pre-kindergarten students through college graduates, but wasn't working with current college students.

"For us, Shakespeare education is at the center of our mission, along with our professional work on the main stage," he said. "We've been looking to link with a university for some time now and we're just very grateful that the University of North Georgia stepped forward."

Laura Cole, director of education and training and a professional actor with the Atlanta Shakespeare Co., said she welcomes the opportunity to share the entire theater experience with students.

"This is a partnership with a working theater company that produces year-round … so they're not only looking at original practices in terms of performances, but business model and training are all rooted in a Shakespeare's-own-company aesthetic," she said.

The agreement also establishes an international conference on English Renaissance verse drama and provides for discounted tickets for UNG faculty, staff and students to Atlanta Shakespeare Co. and Resurgens productions. Both companies stage productions at the New American Shakespeare Tavern, which originally opened in 1990 on Peachtree Street in Atlanta and was renovated in 1999 and 2006 to reflect the atmosphere of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

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