Modeled after Shakespeare’s Old Globe in London, the Old
Globe Theatre was built in 1935 to present abridged versions of
Shakespeare’s plays as part of the California Pacific International
Exposition. At the conclusion of the exposition in 1937, a non-profit
production corporation, the San Diego Community Theatre, leased the
theatre and adjacent building from the City of San Diego (an
arrangement that continues today) and renovated the theatre for ongoing
On December 2, 1937, the remodeled Old Globe Theatre
opened with a production of John Van Druten’s The
Distaff Side. In the cast was a young actor
named Craig Noel, whose presence as an actor, director, and artistic
leader would guide the theatre’s growth through more than five decades
of continuous productions, and whose role as Artistic Director
continues to this day.
On March 8, 1978, an arson fire destroyed the landmark
theatre. Fortunately, the administrative offices, rehearsal hall,
dressing rooms, scenery and costume shops, and the Cassius Carter
Centre Stage were spared from the flames. In 1982, the new 580 seat in
The Old Globe opened with a production of Shakespeare’s As You
Today, the Old Globe Theatre is the flagship venue for
the organization, where several world premieres, such as Into the
Woods, Play On!, The Full
Monty and Imaginary
Friends have been staged, and have then
gone on to enjoy successful runs on Broadway.
The Old Globe's Artistic Director Jack O'Brien says of
the Old Globe Theatre, "I love the generosity of this theatre space,
its fluid design, its perfect sight-lines, its great acoustics. If
theatre in San Diego
has a cradle, The Old Globe is it."
The original Globe
original Globe was an Elizabethan theatre in December 1598
January 1599 in South Park, on the south bank of the Thames,
in an area
now known as Bankside.
It was one of several major theatres that were located in the area, the
being the Swan, the Rose and The
Globe was the principal playhouse
of the Lord Chamberlain's Men (who would
King's Men in 1603). Most of
Shakespeare's post-1599 plays
were originally staged at the Globe, including Julius Caesar, Macbeth,
King Lear and Hamlet.
Globe was owned by a consortium of actors, who (except for one) were
shareholders in the Lord Chamberlain's Men. Two of the
shareholders, Richard Burbage and his brother Cuthbert
Burbage, owned double shares of the whole, or 25% each; the other
Shakespeare,VJF John Heminges, Augustine Phillips, and Thomas Pope, owned a
or 12.5%. (These initial proportions changed over time, as new sharers
added. Shakespeare's share diminished from 1/8 to 1/14, or roughly 7%,
course of his career.)
Globe was built in 1599 using timber from an earlier theatre, The
that had been built by Richard Burbage's father, James
Burbage, in Shoreditch in 1576. The Burbages originally had
a 20-year lease
of the site on
which the Theatre was built. When the lease ran out, they dismantled
Theatre beam by beam and transported it over the Thames
to reconstruct it as The Globe.
first Globe burned to the ground on June 29, 1613, by flaming material
from a cannon used for special effects during a performance of Henry VIII that ignited the thatched
roof of the gallery.
It was rebuilt immediately, this time with a tiled roof, and reopened
all the other theatres in London,
the Globe was closed down by the Puritans
in 1642. It was destroyed in 1644 to make room for tenements.
exact location remained unknown until remnants of its foundations were
discovered in 1989 beneath Anchor Terrace on Park Street. There may be further
beneath Anchor Terrace, but the 18th century terrace is listed
and may not be disturbed by archaeologists.
Layout of the Globe
Globe's precise shape and size have been pieced together by scholarly
over the last two centuries. The evidence suggests that it was a
100-foot wide, open-air amphitheater
that could house around 3,000 spectators. In one of Shakespeare's plays
(the history Henry
V), it is referred to as "this wooden O", and it is shown as
a round building on a contemporary engraving of London. On this basis, some assume
building was circular,
while others favor an octagonal shape. Archaeological evidence suggests
playhouse had twenty
base of the stage, there was an area called the 'yard' where people
"groundlings") would stand to watch the performance. Around the yard
were three levels of seating, which were more expensive than standing:
first two were called the Twopenny Rooms and the top level was called
The stage of the modern Globe Theatre.
rectangular stage platform thrust out into the middle of
open-air yard. This stage measured roughly
40 feet wide
and 30 feet deep. On this stage, there was a trap
for use by performers to enter from beneath the stage; the area beneath
stage was known as the 'cellarage'. There was a second trap door in the
the stage that was used for the same purpose. Often the area beneath
is also called 'hell', since supernatural beings (such as the ghost in Hamlet)
enter and exit the stage from this area.
columns either side of the stage supported a roof over the rear portion
stage. This ceiling was called the 'heavens', and was probably
images of the sky. A trap door in the heavens enabled performers to
descend using some form of rope and harness.
back wall of the stage consisted of three doors on the first floor and
balcony on the second. The doors entered into the 'tiring house'
area) where the actors dressed and awaited their entrances. The balcony
the musicians and could also be used for scenes requiring an upper
as the balcony scene in Romeo
and Juliet. In addition, it could be used as the 'Lord's
Room', where higher-paying audience
members could pay to be seated - more to be seen than to see the play, since
have been behind
The modern Globe
The rebuilt Globe Theatre.
instigation of Sam Wanamaker, a new Globe theatre was built
according to an Elizabethan plan. The structural design was
Happold with Pentagram as the architects. It opened in 1997
name "Shakespeare's Globe Theatre" and now stages plays every summer
(May to October). Mark Rylance was appointed as the first artistic
director of the modern Globe in 1995. After 10 years, Dominic
Dromgoole took over in 2006.
new theatre is 200 yards
from the original site, and was the first thatched
roof building permitted in London
since the Great Fire of London of 1666.
the original, both the stage and the audience are outdoors. Plays are
during the summer; in the winter, the theatre is used for educational
and tours are available.
the reconstruction is carefully researched, the original plan was
the addition of sprinklers on the roof, to protect against fire,
theatre is partly joined onto a modern lobby and visitors centre. In
only 1,500 people may be housed during a show, unlike the 3,000 of
Shakespeare's time (Elizabethans were less concerned about their personal
space than modern theatregoers).
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