Thursday, January 18, 2018

John Barton

Co-founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company; director, adapter, educator, and expert on classic theater -- via .the Royal Shakespeare Company. A magnificeent mind for theater. He worked with Peter Hall for decades, making great theater. His monumental achievements involve Shakespeare. He crafted first The Hollow Crown in 1961 and the Wars of the Roses in 1963, stitching together Shakespeare's historical plays to create a great, Brechtian, 11-hour saga. He later adapted the primary Greek tragedies into a colossal 10-play series, The Greeks. These sweeping, innovative reinvigorations of the classics was a hallmark of the RSC. His nine-part "Playing Shakespeare" is a master class on how to do exactly that.

I met him in 2000, when he came to Denver to create another Greek anthology, Tantalus. He sat in the lobby of the Denver Center, wading through revisions. He seemed distracted and unhappy, but was polite and exchanged pleasantries. (I learned later that he and Hall had been fighting over Tantalus; it was to fracture their relationship permanently. Barton left before the opening.)

He knew all of the Bard practically by heart, and coupled this encyclopedic knowledge with a deep and deeply felt understanding of the works, of acting, of staging. Consult any of his works -- you will get something from them.