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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). This aimed, for the first time, to involve schoolchildren of all ages and abilities in 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.
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.
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, Adopt an Actor began to capture the experiences of touring companies. In 2008, schools also had access to content from creatives including directors and the accent and dialogue coach.
By 2010, Adopt an Actor, although still developed by Education, moved away from being an interactive school's programme: transcripts of bulletins from the rehearsal and performance periods and some audio clips now available on the general website were now termed podcasts. From c.2010, the transcripts began to include the interviewers questions as well as the actors responses. When the redesigned general website was launched in April 2019, the existing content was taken down to be made available through the archive catalogue. One final 'live' Adopt an Actor broadcast is planned and then the project is to be rebadged as Ask an Actor.
Wherever possible, non-downloadable access copies of audio clips are available on Soundcloud, directly from the archive catalogue entry. In these cases a URL is displayed in the middle of the page as it is displayed in the catalogue. Clicking on the link takes you to the set of clips.
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.