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The reconstructed Globe Theatre sits at the heart of The International Shakespeare Globe Centre Ltd., which embraces three distinct but interdependent activities: performance, education and exhibition. The Globe Theatre Company is formed annually in the spring, and contracts extend until the end of the theatre season. Several actors have performed in more than one season at the Globe. The company plays in repertory from May to September annually and has gained an international reputation for performance excellence in architectural conditions which are as close as possible to those of Shakespeare's time. In 2003 the company's production of Twelfth Night was the recipient of the Critics' Circle award, a Time Out award and an Olivier award. In 2003 Mark Rylance also accepted an Evening Standard Special Award on behalf of Shakespeare's Globe.
Mark Rylance was appointed Artistic Director in January 1996. He has appeared in a number of celebrated productions at the Globe, including Henry V, Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, Cymbeline and Twelfth Night. In 2003 he played the title role in an original practices production of Richard II. Other regular members of the Globe Theatre's production team include Greg Ripley-Duggan, Executive Producer; Claire van Kampen, Director of Theatre Music; Jenny Tiramani, Associate Designer; Giles Block, Master of the Words; Glynn MacDonald, Master of Movement and Stewart Pearce, Master of Voice.
Actor, audience and architecture
The relationship between actors and audiences at the Globe is remarkably intimate and informal. The theatre has a capacity of 1,600 people per performance. Approximately a quarter of a million people visit the Globe during the annual performance season. Up to 600 'groundlings' can stand in the yard for each performance and some 75,000 people pay just £5 for a groundling ticket every year.
The Globe Theatre Company makes no claim to authenticity in its productions. Many of the conditions of 16th and 17th century performance - the Elizabethan repertory system, 16th century rehearsal practices, pronunciation, the mentality of the audience itself - are, for the time being at least, practicably irrecoverable. Nevertheless, each season's plays include Œoriginal practices' productions that adopt some of the conditions under which the plays could have been first performed. This is most clearly the case in the adoption of all-male casting, recreated clothing, music and dance.
The original Globe was built for the Chamberlain's Men, William Shakespeare's company of players, in Bankside on the South side of the Thames in 1599. Many of Shakespeare's greatest plays were performed in the Globe and for 14 years it was one of the most successful playhouses in London.
In 1613 a stage cannon set fire to the thatched roof of the Globe during a performance of Henry VIII and the theatre burned to the ground. A second Globe was built on the same site. Shakespeare may have acted in the second Globe, but he probably never wrote for it. However, it remained a home for Shakespeare's company until the closure of all theatres by England's Puritan administration in 1642. No longer of use, it was demolished to make room for tenements in 1644.
What did the first Globe look like? Nobody knows for sure because no plans or construction drawings that clearly depict the form of the original theatre have survived. Printed panoramas, such as those by John Norden and Wenceslaus Hollar, give a rather generalised idea of the theatre's exterior; written accounts, usually by visitors from overseas, a building contract and one drawing (of the nearby Swan Theatre) tell us something about the interior. In addition, descriptive passages may be found within the plays themselves, such as the famous Chorus at the opening of Henry V: And shall this cockpit hold within the vasty fields of France Or may we cram within this wooden '...
In fact, the Globe was not truly circular. The archeological excavation of the nearby Rose Theatre in 1989 revealed what most scholars had long suspected: that the Elizabethan playhouses were polygonal buildings. In the same year, a small portion of the Globe itself was excavated, from which two important inferences were drawn: that it was a 20-sided building with a diameter of of 100 feet.
The site of the original Globe lies approximately 200 yards from the reconstructed theatre on Bankside. The foundations were discovered in 1989 under a Grade II listed Georgian terrace on Southwark Bridge Road, London SE1.