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Bell Shakespeare is Australia's only national touring theatre company. Its current practice is to tour three mainstage productions to each Australian state in each year, plus a variety of education programs. In 2011, for example, the mainstage productions were Much Ado About Nothing, Faustus (an adaptation of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus), and Julius Caesar, and the major education programs were Romeo and Juliet and The Hamlet Seminar – 2B ≠ 2B.
The company, rather than using Renaissance costumes and sets, uses contemporary styles. Unlike many other producers, Bell has his actors accentuating and emphasising the many sexual innuendos and bawdy moments that are in the original texts.
The Bell Shakespeare is listed as a Major Festival in the book Shakespeare Festivals Around the World by Marcus D. Gregio (ed.), 2004, ISBN 978-1-4134-5906-7.
In 2012, John Bell announced the promotion of associate artistic director Peter Evans to the position of co-artistic director.
Bell Shakespeare has a well-developed education program, conceived by company founder John Bell. Since 2011, the education program has been delivered nationally by a team of 8 actors called The Players. Their Actors At Work shows tour to schools in every state and territory throughout the year. The 2012 season, Midsummer Madness and Macbeth: Undone, was written by Matt Edgerton and Joanna Erskine, and directed by James Evans and Matt Edgerton. In addition to Actors At Work, The Players perform a mainstage show for students in Sydney and Melbourne each year.
Other education activities include scholarships, master classes, workshops, and other experiences for both teachers and students, such as the Regional Performance Scholarship, which allows the winners to spend a week with Bell Shakespeare actors and directors in rehearsal.
- The Tempest (directed by Peter Evans and starring John Bell and Freya Stafford)
- The Merchant of Venice (directed by Anna Volska and starring John Hannan and Thomas Campbell)
- The Comedy of Errors (directed by John Bell and starring Sean O'Shea and Christopher Stollery)
- Romeo and Juliet (directed by John Bell and starring Julian Garner and Chloe Armstrong)
- Moby-Dick (adapted and performed by John Bell)
- Macbeth (directed by John Bell and starring Sean O'Shea and Linda Cropper)
- Othello (directed by Marion Potts and starring Wayne Blair and Marcus Graham)
- The Government Inspector (directed by John Bell and starring Darren Gilshenan and William Zappa)
- Hamlet (directed by Marion Potts and starring Brendan Cowell and with music by Sarah Blasko
- As You Like It (directed by John Bell and starring Saskia Smith and Stephan Phillips
- Anatomy Titus Fall of Rome, a reworking of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus by Heiner Müller, directed by Michael Gow and starring John Bell
Production history by play
List of Bell Shakespeare productions (not including education or children’s productions or special events):
- Bell, John (2004). John Bell – The Time of My Life. Sydney: Currency Press. ISBN 1-74114-134-6.
- Dow, Steve (4 October 2012). "Almost 'fat enough', Bell takes on Falstaff and hints at retirement". The Sydney Morning Herald.
- "Bell Shakespeare Overview". Archived from the original on 19 May 2011. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
- "AusStage - Bell Shakespeare". AusStage. Retrieved 24 February 2017.