Adopt an Actor was a long-lived project aiming, for the first time, to share the collaborative, practical and creative process of bringing a role in Shakespeare from the page to the stage - from the first rehearsal to the final performance. This would eventually include around 250 interviewees (both performers and creatives), some of whom have been interviewed more than once. Productions from the first four Artistic Directorates are included and exemplify the range of productions offered by the unique performance spaces (Shakespeare's Globe, and from 2014 onwards also the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse), from the early Original Practice performances (e.g. Twelfth Night, 2002) to Imogen (2016). The experience of touring was also shared (from 2017 onwards), including the Globe to Globe Hamlet of 2014-2016.
All of Shakespeare's plays are included apart from the Henry VI plays, plus eight other early modern plays (from Marlowe to Brome) and new writing (from Augustine's Oak to Eyam). The most featured play was A Midsummer Night's Dream, but the range of characters covered extends from Aaron (Titus Andronicus) to Young Pericles (Pericles) and the character played most often by adopted actors is Antipholus of Syracuse (Comedy of Errors). The most adopted actor was Paul Chahidi, who was Angelo (Comedy of Errors) in 1999, Trinculo (The Tempest) in 2000, Seyton, Weird Sister and Porter (Macbeth) in 2001, and Maria (Twelfth Night) in both 2002 and the 2012 revival. A downloadable subject guide offering further information and different routes in to the collection is included as Multimedia at the foot of this page.
Adopt An Actor was established as a GlobeLink Project in February 1998, free but open only to GlobeLink members (UK £20/year; rest of the world £25/year). The vision at first was to involve schoolchildren of all ages and abilities. Information relating to the plays, the roles and the biography of the actors were initially relayed to and from classroom and rehearsal room by letter, fax, E-mail and over the Internet. The relationship was not intended to be just one-way, students being able to question the actor and keep up to date with the development of the play in rehearsal. They could also offer their suggestions as to how particular scenes might be played or which aspects of the character should be expressed - and compare those with the ideas aired in the company. It was suggested that the insights of the classroom would find their way onto the stage of the theatre. One example was a student suggested hobby for Luciana (played by Jules Melvin) in the 1999 Comedy of Errors, although on stage it turned out that the stamps were too small to be seen and the hobby had to be changed.
In theory, each month, participating schools (for all ages and abilities) would be sent a range of tasks tailored to their needs. The scheme had a cross-curricular character: as well as English, the Adopt an Actor scheme embraced Theatre Studies, Information Technology and Textiles. Students will be able to design their own costume, or work from designs used in the productions in order to learn about the fabrics, leathers and dyes used in the creation of 16th and 17th century clothing (including notes on costume fittings, fabric samples and photographs of fabric samples). The scheme offered a unique opportunity for schools to experience Shakespeare and the workings of the theatre from the inside.
Although the proposed project name was changed at the suggestion of Fiona Banks (from Adopt a Character), the bulletins seem always to have been listed as 'Character Name played by Actor Name'. Initially, introductory, rehearsal and performance bulletins were issued as summaries in the third person, but from 2000, these were edited transcripts in the first person. Audio interviews were recorded during the performance period, edited for release as clips. Organisationally, all actors were invited to participate so the resulting spread of characters represented was a matter of chance rather than intention.
Between 1999 and 2001 the Adopt an Actor web pages were available on a Shakespeare Lives section of the website and contained discussion boards for use by students and teachers from the adopting schools. Actors would personally communicate with schools between bulletins, and videoconferences were available at a cost with actors, designers, directors and other theatre professionals from the Globe Theatre Company. From March 2002, a new GlobeLink web resource was available, including the interactive Adopt an Actor learning project materials such as "web-based bulletins and bespoke activities". The 2004 brochure explained that the online resource centre now offered audio interviews from 2002 and 2003, and included an exploring sonnets section (edited by Jerome Monahan) including new bridge-related sonnets by, for example, Andy Brown, Michael Donaghy, Ruth Padel, John Stammers and Patience Agbabi) intended to assist the "reading, writing and understanding of poetry" and related to the Shakespeare's Globe and The Wordsworth Trust co-publication "Earth has not anything to shew more fair", edited by Peter and Alice Oswald and Robert Woof. The availability of this more advanced material may be related to the decision to offer activities only for the actors in Romeo and Juliet who were adopted by primary schools. In 2006, resources included a photo diary of a week in the theatre, including concept, rehearsal, and performance photographs.
From c.1999, in addition to the established introductory, rehearsal and performance bulletins, end of run interviews were conducted as part of Adopt an Actor with clips made available on the site by the end of each year. These were no longer included in the Adopt an Actor pages of the website taken down in 2019, and are distinct from the End of Season interviews which began to be created by Research in 2006.
By 2004, the materials were open to colleges and universities as well as schools, and adopting institutions had the opportunity to be partnered with each other as co-adopters of the same actor to share their ideas. From 2005, adopting schools had the opportunity to learn about Original Pronunciation, as part of an "online archive" containing "audio interviews, photographs and rehearsal notes from 17 productions 1998 - 2004". From 2003 some actors seem to have been adopted by some institutions through SICOP (Share In a Company of Players). In 2006 past GlobeLink resources became free to access on the website, but schools were now charged a fee for participating in that year's Adopt an Actor scheme. In 2007, a blog began to capture the experiences of Globe companies touring the country for the first time and this was ultimately included with Adopt An Actor material on the website. In 2008, schools also had access to content from creatives including directors and the accent and dialogue coach.
By 2009, Adopt an Actor, although still developed by Education and displayed through the Discovery Space on the globe-education.org website, moved away from being an interactive school's programme. The transcripts began to include the interviewers questions as well as the actors responses, under the co-ordination of Ryan Nelson. From 2011, there is no evidence of any actors being 'adopted' by specific institutions, and edited audio is consistently released as a Podcast.
The final production included in Adopt An Actor was the winter season production of Macbeth in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, which closed in February 2019. When the redesigned general website was launched in April 2019, all the existing content was taken down to be made available through the archive catalogue. The project was to be rebadged as Ask an Actor, and recordings were made in 2019 under that aegis for the Globe productions of Henry IV Part 1, Henry V, Merry Wives of Windsor, A Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
Accessing the collection
All content is open to researchers in the reading room. However, non-downloadable access copies of audio clips are made available whenever possible on Soundcloud, directly from a hyperlink in the archive catalogue entry. In these cases a URL is displayed in the middle of the page as it is displayed in the catalogue. Other audio can be produced for in-person researchers including interviews never made available as clips/podcasts. Published textual material is also made available as downloadable PDFs within the catalogue, with drafts and other material available only in the reading room..
NB It is not always clear that the attributed dates of individual interviews during the rehearsals or performance, resulting in summaries, transcriptions or audio clips refer to the recording or release.