There are many different Shakespearean stage history projects to pursue.
You can research a specific play, a specific role, a period of time, an
actor, actress or director, or a combination of any of these. Unless the
play in which you are interested has an entry in Section
IV, the place to start is always the books in Section I, General
In terms of available information, there are a series of polarities that
reveal the movements of cultural prestige within Shakespearean stage history.
There will always be more available about British productions than about
American. There will always be more about staged productions than about
film versions. There will always be more about films than about television
You should use the same skepticism you have with regard to reviews of the
latest Tom Hanks movie when researching old productions of Shakespeare,
especially if you are relying on an actor's account of his own work. A lot
of the time, what a company attempts to achieve and what it does achieve
are different things. David Selbourne's day-by-day account of the rehearsal
process for Peter Brook's famous 1970 RSC production of A Midsummer Night's
Dream is a remarkable example of this contrast: the textual exploration
crucially important to Brook and his actors in the long rehearsal process
was apparently incidental to reviewers all over the world who were more
interested in the Chinese acrobat costumes. The actor's opinion is always
less important, though it is sometimes more colorful, than that of the audience.
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