This month, Hofstra holds its 68th Annual Shakespeare Festival with the star being the new Globe Stage. This stage is an accurate emulation of the London Globe Theatre, which is a replication of the Old Globe, the home for many of Shakespeare’s original productions.
The stage was part of a grant given to the university by a donor. Some of this money was also used for renovating the John Cranford Adams Playhouse auditorium, with renovations for the lobby starting this summer.
The Globe is not new to Hofstra. In 1951, the university had another model of the Bard’s theater, but retired it in 2008 due to its lack of historical accuracy.
David Henderson, the leader and designer of the project, says that the university and alumni pushed for a new and historically accurate theater.
“It was really an alumna, Lidia Leads, who came and said that we really need to do this,” Henderson said. “We can get alumni support and really get the project going.”
Henderson made sure that the new Globe Stage was as historically accurate as possible.
“I did a lot of research starting in April 2015, just reading a lot of books about the history of the Globe and about the research that the London Globe had done to contract their version of it,” Henderson said. “Then in the summer of 2015 I went to the Globe in London and looked through their archives and their original plans. Plus, I traveled around England to the Elizabethan houses that still exist to view their interiors because we feel like it [the Globe] would feel similar to the houses of the time.”
The two-year project had its challenges since information on the original 1599 Old Globe is hard to find.
“We don’t have any actual plans [of] the Globe itself,” Henderson said. “The foundation of it – they discovered a small part of it. The rest is underneath the historical building so they can’t tear the building down to take a look at it. So we will never know how close we are to it.”
Due to the set’s size and need for engineering to make it safe enough for actors, it was not built at Hofstra, but at Cigar Box Studios in Marlboro, New York. Jim Hart, production manager and technical director for the Hofstra Department of Drama and Dance, said, “The set was – well it was going to be too big to build in a normal season for us to start but also because of the nature of it, it was going to need to pass inspection with an engineer.”
The inspection was needed for the roof of the set. In the original Globe, the roof was held up by columns, but thanks to modern engineering, Hofstra’s Globe Stage has four two ton chain motors that are suspend from the ceiling holding a total of four tons of scenery in the air.
“The complexity of the engineering is the hardest by far and it took the company that we hired a long time and many revisions to get the engineering to where it needed to be to be safe,” Hart said.
For the lucky few that get to act on the stage, it is a once in a lifetime experience. Junior Will Ketter described his first rehearsal in the Globe as “stressful,” but in the best way. Ketter is playing Hamlet in this year’s festival. Perhaps the most famous Shakespearian character in the Bard’s cannon, one can understand why Ketter would describe it as stressful, but he adds, “once the sacred quality wears off and we have been in there for a couple of days and put more use to it, I think that will go away and I think we will go back to just telling the story that we have been learning for the last six weeks.”
The Globe Stage is as much of an educational tool for the Department of Drama and Dance as it is a masterful feat in set design.
When asked what students will get from the productions and the set, Henderson said, “A sense of how Shakespeare originally produced his plays. As you know, we can do Shakespeare in many, many different ways, but realizing that this was the stage that he wrote his plays for, so all of his plays should work in this space.”
Hart says, “It will be clear as soon as you see it because it is quite grand. This is like nothing else you will ever see [at the Playhouse].”
At the end of the festival the Globe will be taken down but put back up again next spring.
Henderson knows that this design is unlike any other he has done. “One of the things I kept thinking about while working on it is that this would be around hopefully forever. I mean, the last one was around for over 50 years. Most of my work goes up, comes down in two months. There was a lot of pressure in that sense because any decisions I make will be here for a long time so I need to make sure I get it right.”
“Hamlet” will be playing at the John Cranford Adams Playhouse Globe Stage March 2-4 and March 10-11 at 8 p.m. and March 5 and 12 at 2 p.m.