Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble
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Mission and vision
The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble "exists to engage a variety of Queensland communities with the works of William Shakespeare - in order to strengthen the connections and relationships between community members, and to create evocative, engaging theatre that awakes the senses and impassions the lives of its audiences and artists."
QSE believes in the inherent artistry of every human being, and in the central value of the performing arts in the life of all communities. QSE's view of the function of theatre is that the sharing of our deepest desires and fears through performance is as old as humanity itself, and assists in healing ruptures in our communities.
QSE does this through performance, training of students, teachers, and actors, and a variety of community engagement projects such as the Prison Project (see below).
QSE sees theatre primarily as a medium for a community to speak the unspoken, and to ask the questions that are important to its survival and development. The Ensemble's core belief is that this process is most powerful when it is undertaken by a community of actors who train and work together on a regular basis.
- As You Like It, directed by Rob Pensalfini (2002)
- Pericles, directed by Ira Seidenstein (2003)
- Coriolanus, directed by Anne Pensalfini (2003)
- The Comedy of Errors, directed by Rob Pensalfini (2005)
- The Madness of King Lear, an experimental re-working of King Lear, directed by Stephen Daniels (2005)
- Shakespeare's Briefs, or Let's Kill All The Lawyers, featuring scenes from Shakespeare's plays which involve legal matters (such as Hermione's trial in The Winter's Tale), directed by Samid Suliman (2006)
- Metamorphoses, an adaptation of Tales from Ovid, directed by Leah Mercer and Jo Loth (2006–2008)
- Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Jo Loth (2007)
- Twelfth Night, directed by Rob Pensalfini (2008)
- As You Like It, directed by Paul Adams (2009)
- Where the Wild Things Are, directed by Rob Pensalfini (2009)
- Richard III, directed by Tom McSweeney (2010)
- The Merchant of Venice, directed by Crystal Arons and Curt Tofteland (2011)
- Two Gentlemen of Verona, directed by Rob Pensalfini (2012)
Other performances and readings
- Staged reading: King John, directed by Rob Pensalfini (2001)
- Staged reading: As You Like It, directed by Rob Pensalfini (2001)
- Staged reading: A Winter's Tale, directed by Flloyd Kennedy (2003)
- Staged reading: Two Gentlemen of Verona, directed by Samid Suliman and Rob Pensalfini (2004)
- Shakespeare's Shorts, half-hour versions of Shakespeare's best-known plays, designed to tour to festivals, community and corporate events, schools, and other venues (2005–present). Offerings vary from year to year, but have included The Half-Hour Hamlet, Instant Romeo & Juliet, Midsummer's Mechanicals and Express Macbeth
- [Vis-à-Vis: Moving Stories] with the Queensland Ballet (2010)
Training programs and workshops
QSE's training draws heavily on the work of Kristin Linklater, Shakespeare & Company (USA), and Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, as well as incorporating yoga, mindfulness, the Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais.
QSE offers regular training to the public in the Linklater voice method, Speaking Shakespeare in Your Own Voice (personalising and acting Shakespeare), and Theatre of the Oppressed. QSE's Artistic Director Rob Pensalfini is a Designated Linklater voice teacher and a faculty member at Shakespeare & Company. As of July 2012, QSE will have a second officially-designated Linklater teacher, Christina Koch, a member of the company since 2002. There are only eight designated Linklater teachers in Australia.
QSE's Prison Project
The Prison Project, started in 2006 under the name Arts in Community Enhancement is Australia's first and only Prison Shakespeare project, and Australia's only ongoing prison theatre program. It ran in Borallon Correctional Centre in 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2011. Borallon Correctional Centre is now closed, and the program is expected to move to the South-East Queensland Correctional Complex in 2012 or 2013.
The Prison Project utilises a combination of Theatre of the Oppressed and Shakespeare performance to engage a group of volunteer prisoners with dramatic form. The project, typically of three months duration, culminates in a performance of Shakespeare's work in the prison for an invited audience of family members, prisoners, correctional staff, and other community members.
Central to the project is the belief that violent and/or anti-social behaviour often comes out of an inability to express negative thoughts and emotions in words. It uses theatre as a medium, since one of theatre's main tools is embodied language. Prisoners who have participated in the project report an increase in verbal communication skills, increase is self-worth, a sense of connection and belonging, a sense of achievement, and an increased sense of self. Prisoners simultaneously report that the Prison Project is the most challenging thing they have ever done and that the workshops and rehearsals were the only place in the prison that they felt they could truly be themselves.
The Prison Project's main objective is different from many of its therapeutic counterparts in Prison Theatre and/or Dramatherapy, which have rehabilitation as a direct goal (see for example the work of Geese Theatre). The most basic aim of QSE's Prison Project is to put on a play. In rehearsing a play for performance the rehabilitative side-effects become manifest: the project develops emotional bravery and self-awareness, social skills and self-confidence, individual dedication as well as the commitment to work as a member of a team.
QSE's Prison Project shares many similarities with Prison Shakespeare projects in the United State of America, the best known of which is Shakespeare Behind Bars, though it was not directly based on any of them. In 2011, the founder of Shakespeare Behind Bars, Curt Tofteland, visited QSE on a Fulbright Fellowship and traded skills with the facilitators of the Prison Project (as well as co-directing QSE's production of The Merchant of Venice.
The spirit and form of QSE's Prison Project owe a great deal to Brent Blair, an applied theatre practitioner and teacher from the University of Southern California, who traveled to Queensland in 2006 to train QSE in Theatre of the Oppressed and led the first week of workshops in Borallon Correctional Centre.
- "Our Vision". Retrieved 11 February 2012.