RSC dims stars to spotlight ensemble

Company slate to feature 'Caesar,' 'Errors'

The Royal Shakespeare Company is turning its back on star casting for individual productions. Instead, almost all its key productions will be cast from an ensemble of 44 actors who will be exclusively contracted for 2½ years.

Announced by a.d. Michael Boyd alongside the company’s annual report, the move is an extension of the idea behind the RSC’s highly successful ensemble, which created the company’s much-lauded cycle of Shakespeare’s eight history plays that was seen by nearly 250,000 people.

The ensemble, still being cast, will perform a mix of new Shakespeare productions and new plays. The season begins in February with David Farr’s production of “A Winter’s Tale” and Boyd’s “As You Like It.” Lucy Bailey’s “Julius Caesar” and Paul Hunter’s “The Comedy of Errors” will follow, and in 2010 Boyd will direct “Antony and Cleopatra,” Farr will direct “King Lear” and Rupert Goold (“Macbeth”) will direct “Romeo and Juliet.”

New RSC commissions include Mike Poulton’s “Morte d’Arthur,” inspired by Sir Thomas Malory’s 15th century epic retelling of the Arthurian legend, to be directed by Gregory Doran. A handful of other new plays — including “Little Eagles,” Rona Munro’s play about the 1960s space race between the USSR and U.S. — will be presented under the umbrella title “Other Russia.”

Tarell Alvin McCraney, currently repped Off Broadway with “Wig Out” at the Vineyard, joins the company as the international playwright in residence.

The 2007-08 season saw fewer performances at the company’s home base in Stratford-upon-Avon due to the ongoing rebuilding of the main house. That was balanced by 258 performances in 47 weeks of national and international touring. A total of 535,117 tickets were sold, and box office hit £9.2 million ($17 million).

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