Mark Rylance

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Mark Rylance
Mark Rylance NYC.png
Rylance in front of the Belasco Theatre in New York City on October 26, 2013
Born David Mark Rylance Waters
(1960-01-18) 18 January 1960 (age 54)
Ashford, Kent, England, UK
Occupation Actor, theatre director, playwright
Years active 1980–present
Spouse(s) Claire van Kampen

Mark Rylance (born 18 January 1960) is an English actor, theatre director and playwright.

As an actor, Rylance found success on stage and screen. For his work in theatre he has won Olivier and Tony Awards among others, and a BAFTA TV Award. His film roles include Ferdinand in Prospero's Books (based on Shakespeare's The Tempest), Jay in Intimacy (after a novel by Hanif Kureishi) and Jakob von Gunten in Institute Benjamenta (after a novel by Robert Walser).

He was the first Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe in London, from 1995 to 2005.

Life and career[edit]

Early years[edit]

Rylance was born David Mark Rylance Waters in Ashford, Kent, the son of David and Anne (née Skinner) Waters, both English teachers (as an adult, he took the stage name of Mark Rylance because the name Mark Waters was already taken by someone else registered with Equity). In 1962, when he was two, his parents moved to Connecticut in the United States and in 1969, to Wisconsin, where his father taught English at a private school, the University School of Milwaukee. Rylance later attended the school, where he began acting. His first notable role was Hamlet in a 1976 production (with his own father as the First Gravedigger), and the next year he played Romeo in the school's production of Romeo and Juliet.


With considerable juvenile experience already in hand, Rylance won a scholarship by audition to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) in London. There he trained from 1978–1980 under Hugh Cruttwell, and with Barbara Bridgmont at the Chrysalis Theatre School, Balham, London. In 1980 he got his first professional work at the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre.

In 1982 and 1983, Rylance performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) both in Stratford-upon-Avon and London.

In 1988, Rylance played Hamlet with the RSC in Ron Daniels' acclaimed production that toured Ireland and Britain for a year. The play then ran in Stratford-upon-Avon, where Rylance alternated Hamlet with Romeo in the production of Romeo and Juliet that inaugurated the rebuilt Swan Theatre in Stratford. Hamlet toured to the United States for two years.

In 1990, Rylance and Claire van Kampen (later his wife) founded "Phoebus' Cart", their own theatre company. The following year, the company staged The Tempest on the road in unique, unusual sites.

Also in 1991, Rylance played the lead in Gillies Mackinnon's film The Grass Arena (1991), and won the BBC Radio Times Award for Best Newcomer. In 1993, he starred in Matthew Warchus' production of Much Ado About Nothing at the Queen's Theatre, produced by Thelma Holt. His Benedick won him an Olivier Award for Best Actor.

In 2005, he took the leading role as British weapons expert David Kelly in Peter Kosminsky's The Government Inspector, an award-winning Channel 4 production for which he himself won the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor in 2005.

In 2007, Rylance performed in Boeing Boeing in London. In 2008, he reprised the role on Broadway and subsequently won Drama Desk and Tony Awards for his performance. (For his acceptance speech for the Tony, Rylance recited a work by poet Louis Jenkins).

In 2009, Rylance won the Critics' Circle Theatre Award Best Actor, 2009 for his role of Johnny Byron in Jerusalem written by Jez Butterworth at the Royal Court Theatre in London.

In 2010 he starred in a revival of David Hirson's verse play La Bête, with David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumley. The play ran first at London's Comedy Theatre before transferring to the Music Box Theatre on Broadway, on 23 September 2010.

Also in 2010, Rylance won another Olivier award for best actor in the role of Johnny Byron in Jerusalem at the Apollo Theatre, London. In 2011 he won his second Tony Award for playing the same role in the Broadway production (for his acceptance speech, he again recited a Louis Jenkins poem). In a 2012 interview with Jonathan Ross, Stephen Fry stated that he believed Rylance was the best stage actor in the world, "phenomenal".

Globe Theatre[edit]

In 1995, Rylance became the first Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, a post he filled until 2005. Rylance directed and acted in every season, in works by Shakespeare and others, notably in all-male productions of Twelfth Night where he starred as Olivia, and Richard II where he took the title role. Under his directorate, new plays were performed at the Globe, the first being Augustine's Oak (referring to Augustine of Canterbury and Christianisation of Anglo-Saxon England) by Peter Oswald, the writer-in-residence, which was performed in 1999. A second play by Oswald followed in 2002: The Golden Ass or the Curious Man. In 2005, Oswald's third play written for the Globe was performed for the first time: The Storm, an adaptation of Plautus' comedy Rudens (The Rope) – one of the sources of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Other historical first nights were organised by Rylance while director of the Globe including Twelfth Night performed in 2002 at Middle Temple, to commemorate its first performance there exactly 400 years before, and Measure for Measure at Hampton Court in summer 2004.

Shakespeare controversy[edit]

On 8 September 2007 Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance unveiled a Declaration of Reasonable Doubt on the authorship of Shakespeare's work, after the final matinée of I am Shakespeare, a play in Chichester, Sussex.

The actual author was proposed to be Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon, the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere or Mary Sidney (Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke). The declaration named 20 prominent doubters of the past, including Mark Twain, Orson Welles, John Gielgud and Charlie Chaplin and was made by Shakespeare Authorship Coalition duly signed online by 300 people to begin new research. Jacobi and Rylance presented a copy of the document to William Leahy, head of English at Brunel University, London.[1]

Rylance wrote (co-conceived by John Dove) and starred in The BIG Secret Live—I am Shakespeare—Webcam Daytime Chatroom Show (A comedy of Shakespearean identity crisis) which toured England in 2007.

Personal life[edit]

In 1992 he married Claire van Kampen whom he met while working at the National Theatre.[2] He has a sister named Susannah, an opera singer and author, and a brother, Jonathan, who works as a sommelier at Chez Panisse.[3] His stepdaughter is actress Juliet Rylance, who is married to actor Christian Camargo. His younger stepdaughter, filmmaker Nataasha Van Kampen, died in July 2012 at the age of twenty-eight, as a result of which Rylance withdrew from his planned participation in the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony.[4]

Mark Rylance has been a supporter of the indigenous rights organisation Survival International for many years.[5] He is the creator and director of "We Are One, a celebration of tribal peoples", a fundraising to take place at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue on Sunday 18 April 2010. The evening was a performance of tribal prose and poetry from some of the UK and Hollywood’s leading actors and musicians. About the event he has said: ”As a child, I was enriched and inspired by the lives and stories of the world's tribal peoples. As an adult, I have also been inspired by the ceaseless work of the organisation Survival International, and their movement to protect these tribes – from the rainforest of the Amazon to the icy reaches of the Arctic...To celebrate 40 years of Survival's work and enjoy the beauty of the spoken word from such rich oral cultures, I am gathering my friends from the theatre on the set of Jerusalem for a wonderful spring afternoon of eloquent recitals and stunning images from 'We are One’."

He is a patron of Peace Direct that believes that local people have the power to find their own solutions to conflict, and provides support. Rylance performed the life and words of Henri—an extraordinarily brave and charismatic man living in war-torn eastern Congo. The lecture was given at Pasos, Peace Museum, in New York in May 2011.

He is also patron of The Outside Edge Theatre Company. Edge works from the perspective of creating theatre and drama with people affected by substance misuse. It provides theatre interventions in drug and alcohol treatment and general community facilities throughout London and the UK as well as producing professional public theatre productions that take place in theatres, studio theatres and art centres. Rylance is "a great admirer of the company's work" believing it to be "proper initiatory old style theatre".

Mark Rylance became a patron of LIFT (London International Festival of Theatre) in 2013. He said about the festival: "I feel LIFT has done more to influence the growth and adventure of English Theatre than any other organisation we have.".[6]



Year Period Theatrical Performance Theatrical Character Theatre of Performance Accolades
1981 Desperado Corner Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow
1982 The Tempest Ariel (Performing with the RSC)
1989 Hamlet Hamlet
Romeo and Juliet Romeo
1993 Henry V Henry V TFANA, New York
Much Ado About Nothing Benedick Queens Theatre Won the Olivier Award for Best Actor
1994 As You Like It Touchstone TFANA, New York
True West Lee/Austin Donmar Warehouse
1995 Macbeth Macbeth Greenwich Theatre
2000 Live x 3 Henry Royal National Theatre
2007 Boeing Boeing Robert Comedy Theatre Nominated for the Olivier Award in 2008 for Best Actor
I am Shakespeare Frank UK tour
2008 Peer Gynt Peer Gynt Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis
Boeing Boeing Robert Longacre Theatre, NYC Won 2008 Tony Award, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
2009 Jul-Aug Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth Johnny Byron Royal Court Theatre Won 2009 Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Actor
Oct-Dec Endgame by Samuel Beckett Hamm Duchess Theatre
2010 Jan-Apr Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth Johnny Byron Apollo Theatre Won the Olivier Award for Best Actor
Jun-Aug La Bete by David Hirson Valere Comedy Theatre Nominated for the Olivier Award in 2011 for Best Actor
Sept-Feb Music Box Theatre, Broadway -
Apr-Aug Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth Johnny Byron Music Box Theatre, Broadway Won 2011 Tony Award, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
Oct-Jan Apollo Theatre
2012 Nov-Feb 2013 alternating in

Richard III and Twelfth Night, both by William Shakespeare

Richard III / Olivia Apollo Theatre
2013 Apr-May

Nice Fish by Mark Rylance and Louis Jenkins

Ron Guthrie Theater
2013 Oct-Feb 2014 alternating in

Richard III and Twelfth Night, both by William Shakespeare

Richard III / Olivia Belasco Theatre, Broadway

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre[edit]

Along with Rylance's stage performances, he has had many appearances at the recently recreated Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in Southwark, London on the South Bank of the River Thames. Noted for being one of the finest Shakespearean actors of recent times; his performances at Shakespeare's Globe are noted for being amongst his finest works.

Year Performance Theatrical Role Accolades / Notes
1996 The Two Gentlemen of Verona Proteus
1997 A Chaste Maid in Cheapside Mr Allwit
Henry V Henry V
1998 The Merchant of Venice Bassanio
The Honest Whore Hippolito
1999 Antony and Cleopatra Cleopatra
2000 Hamlet Hamlet
2001 Cymbeline Cloten (toured to New York in March 2002)
2002 The Golden Ass (Apuleius' ancient novel adapted by Peter Oswald) Lucius
Twelfth Night Olivia Won the Olivier critics award, (toured to US cities in autumn of 2003: LA, Chicago etc.)
2003 Richard II Richard II (also broadcast on BBC Four)
2004 Measure for Measure Duke Vincentio (also TV broadcast on BBC Four and toured to US cities in autumn 2005)
2005 The Tempest Prospero / Stephano / Sebastian / Alonso
The Storm Daemones / Labrax / The Weather ("you can call me Clement")
2012 Richard III Richard III
Twelfth Night Olivia


Film & television[edit]

Year Film Character Notes
1985 The McGuffin Gavin
Wallenberg: A Hero's Story Nikki Fodor Television role
1987 Hearts of Fire Fizz
1991 The Grass Arena (1991) John Healy Won the BBC Radio Times Award for Best Newcomer
Prospero's Books Ferdinand
1993 Love Lies Bleeding Conn Television role
1995 Loving Charlie Raunce Television role
Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream People Call Human Life Jakob von Gunten
Angels & Insects William Adamson
Hamlet Hamlet Television role
1997 Henry V King Henry V Television role
2000 William Shakespeare Artistic Director, Shakespeare's Globe
2001 Intimacy Jay
Changing Stages Himself Television series
2003 Leonardo Leonardo da Vinci Television role
Richard II Richard II Television role
Celebrity Naked Ambition Himself Television role
2004 Breakfast Himself Television role (19 April)
2005 The Government Inspector Dr. David Kelly Television role; for which he won a BAFTA
2008 The Other Boleyn Girl Thomas Boleyn
2011 Blitz Roberts
Anonymous Condell (Shakespearean actor)
2013 Days and Nights Post-production
2015 Wolf Hall Thomas Cromwell Television role


  • Mark Rylance: PlayA Recollection in Pictures and Words of the First Five Years of Play at Shakespeares's Globe Theatre. Photogr.: Sheila Burnett, Donald Cooper, Richard Kolina, John Tramper. Shakespeare's Globe Publ., London, UK. 2003. ISBN 0-9536480-4-4.
  • The Wisdom of Shakespeare Series by Peter Dawkins (Foreword by Mark Rylance):
  • The Wisdom of Shakespeare in As You Like It. I.C. Media Productions, 1998. Paperback. ISBN 0-9532890-1-X.
  • The Wisdom of Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice. I.C. Media Productions, 1998. Paperback. ISBN 0-9532890-0-1.
  • The Wisdom of Shakespeare in Julius Caesar. I.C. Media Productions, 1999. Paperback. ISBN 0-9532890-2-8.
  • The Wisdom of Shakespeare in The Tempest. I.C. Media Productions, 2000. Paperback. ISBN 0-9532890-3-6.
  • The Wisdom of Shakespeare in Twelfth Night. I.C. Media Productions, 2002. Paperback. ISBN 0-9532890-4-4.
  • Peter Dawkins. The Shakespeare Enigma (Foreword by Mark Rylance). Polair, UK. 2004. Illustrated paperback, 476pp. ISBN 0-9545389-4-3.
  • John Abbott. Improvisation In Rehearsal (Foreword by Mark Rylance). Nick Hern Books, UK. 2009. Paperback, 256pp. ISBN 978-1-85459-523-2.
  • Dave Patrick. The View Beyond: Sir Francis Bacon: Alchemy, Science, Mystery (The View Series) (Foreword by Mark Rylance, Ervin Lazslo, Rose Elliot). Deep Books, UK. 2011. Paperback, 288pp. ISBN 978-1-905398-22-5.


  1. ^ "Coalition aims to expose Shakespeare". yahoo! News. 8 September 2007. Retrieved 27 January 2009. [dead link]
  2. ^ General Register Office. England & Wales, Marriage Index: 1984–2005 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2007.
  3. ^ Cooke, Rachel (2013-6-30). "Mark Rylance: You Have To Move Into The Chaos". The Guardian (Kings Place, London, United Kingdom: Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 2013-7-1. 
  4. ^ Richard Anthony Baker (August 1, 2012). "Nataasha van Kampen". The Stage / Features / Obituaries /. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ LIFT website "Olivier and Tony Winner Mark Rylance announced as LIFT Patron", May 23, 2013.

External links[edit]