Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, London
The original Globe Theatre was built in 1599 on the southern side of The River Thames, out of the jurisidiction of the City of London whose Lord Mayors did not like plays - partly because they had to be performed during daylight hours when the plays would have taken people away from doing their jobs. There where a number of open air theatres operating just outside of The City of London when William Shakespeare arrived in London in the 1580's. In the late 1590's Shakespeare was offered the chance to join a syndicate to build The Globe Theatre - thus he come to own one eighth of the theatre and for which he wrote many of his greatest plays.
The project to rebuild Shakespeare's Globe Theatre was initiated by the American actor, director and producer Sarn Wanamaker after his first visit to London in 1949 when he was surprised there was no theatrical memorial to William Shakespeare. Therefore, in 1970, he founded The Globe Playhouse Trust (renamed later as 'The Shakespeare Globe Trust') and in the same year Southwark Council made available a plot of land on the souther side of The River Thames, close to Southwark Bridge - and in an area close to where the original 'Shakesppearian' Globe Theatre would have stood.
With a site for the prospective new theatre now obtained it meant that The Shakespeare Globe Trust, headed by Sam Wanamaker, where able to start both the task of raising the money to build the theatre and, importantly, endeavour to find out as much as possible about the original Globe Theatre as possible from the very limited information available at the time.
While a few somewhat primative drawings of the original Globe Theatre exist, they generally feature only as a small part in larger landscape views of banks of The River Thames, or views of London - certainly not enough information to actually build a near replica with any certainty - what was known was that the original Globe Theatre was circular (although likely to have been made up of straight sides as this would have been easiest for a wooden building); there was seating on a couple of levels around the outside and covered with a thatched roof; and there was standing room in the middle 'yard' with the stage on one side.
Fortunately in 1989, some 19 years after The Shakespeare Globe Trust was originally set up, the first real concrete evidence came to light when archaeologists working on the site of a nearby new building discovered what turned out to be the foundations of The Rose Theatre - a contemporary theatre to the Globe. Just over half of the foundations of The Rose Theatre where uncovered and this provided evidence that the theatres of Shakespeare's time where many sided circular structures. Then archaeologists from The Museum of London then made a breakthrough in October 1989 when they uncovered a very small portion of the foundations of what turned out to be the original Globe Theatre under Southwark Bridge Road - from this new discovery it was worked out that the original Globe Theatre from Shakespeare's day would most likely have had 20 sides and measured 100 feet across - and it is these basic dimensions which where used for the reconstructed Globe Theatre that stands today.
More information on the actual construction of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre can be found by visting the Exhibition housed adjacent to the theatre. The present day Globe Theatre was build under the guidance of The Pentagram Design Group, lead by the architect Theo Crosby.
A short two week season was presented in September 1996, while the theatre officially opened the following year on 12 June by Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness Prince Philip. Since opening Shakespeare's Globe Theatre was presented annual seasons running from early May to early October each year. Mark Rylance was the original Artist Director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and he programmed well recieved annual season's that, of course, featured works by William Shakespeare, but also works by Shakepeare's comtempories and new work written especially for the unique setting of this theatre. Under Mark Rylance's leadship the theatre was able to mostly avoid being a 'tourist showcase' and was able to present critically accalimed productions that boasted very high audience attenance levels - for example the 2004 Season played to 93% of capacity. After ten years in the job, Mark Rylance stepped down as Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in December 2005 and was replaced by the current Artist Director, Dominic Dromgoole.