This woman pictured above is named Emma Rice. She is one of the founding artistic directors and collaborators for the Kneehigh Theater based in Cornwall and in January of 2016 she was named the artistic Director for the Globe Theater in London. This was a huge step for the Globe as she was their first female artistic director and her work is continually mold-breaking and innovative, a step that seemed on natural for the Globe who was looking for a wider and more diverse audience.
Recently, in a statement released by Globe, they announced the departure of Emma Rice from her position as artistic director at the end of the 2017/2018 season. After Emma’s first production, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” there was much debate over her use of non natural light and extra sound. Previous to her appointment, the Globe had only been The boards decision cited that it was the use of non traditional lighting that caused for a riff large enough for Emma’s dismissal.
“The Globe was reconstructed as a radical experiment to explore the conditions within which Shakespeare and his contemporaries worked, and we believe this should continue to be the central tenet of our work. Whilst the realisation of Emma’s vision has been a vital part of our continuing experimentation as a theatre, we have now concluded that a predominant use of contemporary sound and lighting technology will not enable us to optimise further experimentation in our unique theatre spaces and the playing conditions which they offer.” They go on to cite the board saying “Following much deliberation and discussion, the Globe Board has concluded that from April 2018, the theatre programming should be structured around ‘shared light’ productions without designed sound and light rigging, which characterised a large body of The Globe’s work prior to Emma’s appointment.”
This decision has brought up a lot of questions including what is the purpose of a board is and if an artistic director has to adhere to the founding form of a theater. The reconstruction of the Globe was from the mind of Sam Wannamaker, an American actor and director who died a couple of years before its opening in 1977. For two decades the lighting and sound in the space has been natural and not used any sort of plots. Emma’s work on Midsummer has brought up so much controversy over the proper use of space that it has resulted in one of the most disappointing steps backwards for the Globe.
I see many issues with the dismissal of Emma but most predominately the Globe’s decision to appoint her in the first place. Emma Rice is notorious for her story telling ability and the ways in which she quite literally illuminates the stage. She is an innovator, a technologically minded thinker, and truthfully one of the most visceral human manifestation of the word “cutting edge”. She is not traditional at all, and that is what makes her so unique. Upon offering the position to Emma, the board at the Globe would be lying if they were not prepared for Emma to break the boundaries in one way or another. The Globe clearly has a history of trying to recreate the past but truthfully I believe their obsession with historical accuracy has left them to get stuck and alienate potential audience members. Also, Emma’s decision to use non traditional lighting and sound employed an extra group of skilled professionals who now will not have work following Emma’s leave. Her work is not selfish it is an act of inclusion and forward thinking, something I think traditionalist could use to dabble in. The board at the Globe seems to feel that Emma’s work is not only inappropriate but actually damaging. I think it is a shame that The Globe can not see Emma’s ground breaking work as necessity.
I think Gideon Leister from HowlRound speaks to this issues exactly in the following statement: “Art is always in motion. Last year’s experiment becomes this year’s establishment, and next year’s cliché. Shakespeare’s Globe is now at a crossroads, and risks retreating into the preservationist tendencies of the heritage industry, rather than reinventing itself as a dynamic and forward-thinking art center—the promise that Emma Rice’s leadership seemed to offer. Shakespeare was nothing if not an experimental artist, who constantly invented new forms and new ways of playing. His work is defined by liveness, alive-ness; without that spirit, his work will die as a dusty artifact in an archeological museum.”