Ask me a question
Any questions that you ask may be publicly posted on the feed below, but we will never publish your email address.
Thanks for asking Alex a question, be sure to check back soon!
Which modules have collaborations with RSC? “The Shakespeare Ensemble” and “Shakespeare and Society”?
When I studied it was only ‘Shakespeare and Society’ however this was a few years ago. For full up to date details I’d recommend contacting the Institute directly on 0121 414 9500.
I can say that the RSC are a great help and I really enjoyed working with them!
Hello Alex, What can you say about the diversity, particularly in age, of students in the MA programs? I’m assuming that as a 55 year old, I would not be studying with many my age. I am also curious about residency. Do all students live in Stratford? Do any commute from Birmingham? I’m American, so help me with the geographical logistics piece, please!
In age the Institute is hugely diverse. I went on a holiday with some of my peers recently, and the age range of those attending was 22-62! At 55, you definitely wouldn’t be out of place. Some of the students at the weekly open seminar are into their 80s.
Some students commute from Birmingham or Leamington, but I’d recommend living in Stratford if possible. Events such as the weekly playreadings, Shakespeare Club meetings and Institute Players shows and rehearsals often run until late (normally around 10ish) and the public transport around Startford isn’t great. It’s easier to attend if you’re local.
Hi Alex, good of you to take time to answer questions. I can’t see the reading list on the website – is it the same every year do you know? I am starting this course in September via distance learning and would like to get some more reading done before then.
Thanks for getting in touch! The readings lists do vary slightly year on year, especially as the modules offered vary. What I’d recommend is that you get as familiar with Shakespeare’s whole canon as you can, as this will be the best groundwork you can put in place. I’d also recommend reading around Shakespeare’s work, especially work by his contemporaries.
What do you think would be most useful in terms of preparing oneself before beginning the masters degree?
One thing I wish I’d been more on top of was the reading. As classes are fairly small and you’re working with world leading experts, it’s normally fairly obvious if you’ve not prepared for the seminars, and add such it’s hard to get the most out of them. The reading list is different to undergraduate so I’d recommend really throwing yourself into it.
I also arrived in Stratford a week before the MA began. This gave me time to get my bearings a little. It also helped as it meant I saw multiple shows at the RSC, was able to visit the Birthplace etc and as such had plenty of ice breakers for meeting my peers.
It sounds slightly silly, bit is recommend getting some major relaxation in before starting, especially if you’re coming straight from undergraduate or work. The MA year is incredible, but it can get a little intense at times. Coming into it relaxed, confident and prepared and you’ll be great.
What are your strongest recommendations for taking advantage of life in Stratford? Why would you recommend Birmingham over other Shakespeare MA programs?
I would recommend taking part in as many of the opportunities the Shakespeare Institute offers. Obviously I’d recommend giving as much time to your studies as possible, but unlike many other post graduate places of study, the Institute allows for you to interact with other students in many ways. From theatre, to the BritGrad conference and Thursday evening playreadings, as well as lunches and other social events where we discuss research, there are huge possibilities for personal as well as academic development. I would recommend trying all of these to see which you enjoy, and fitting as much extra curricular activity as you can alongside your studies.
How has your degree prepared you for what you want to do afterwards?
I tend to find that most theatre professionals either come from a traditionally academic background or from a more practical, theatrical one. What’s great about the MA in Shakespeare and Creativity is that I’ve been able to combine both these aspects, and fine tune my abilities in them. As well as learning the history of Shakespeare on stage and how to interpret the texts, I have had classes on how to rig theatrical lights and build sets. My degree has given me a range of skills to bring to professional theatrical work, preparing me for the realities of the industry.
Do you have anything lined up for once you have completed your degree?
I’m still in the process of completing my dissertation, so I’ve not planned too far ahead at the minute. I intend to stay in or around Birmingham and Stratford-Upon-Avon, as during my time studying I’ve felt really at home in the area, and am applying for a variety of degree-related roles, as well as keeping a close eye on the Arts Council website for any exciting opportunities! I’d also love to return to academia at some point for a PhD, but before then I intend to work in the theatre industry.
What has been the highlight of your time at Birmingham?
My personal highlight was the assessed performance that I was part of for my Shakespeare and Society module. We were supported by the staff from the course’s partner organisations – the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Library of Birmingham – in developing an original piece, which we then performed in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and later had professionally filmed. It was amazing working with people from the world’s premier Shakespearean institutions in a dynamic and creative way. Plus, I got to perform Henry V’s ‘One more unto the breach’ monologue at the RSC!
Why did you choose the University of Birmingham?
Having done my undergraduate degree at Birmingham, the decision to stay for postgraduate study was easy. Birmingham has enough of a campus feel that when it’s essay or exam season you can knuckle down without too much distraction, but it’s also close enough to the city centre that you’re never short of opportunities for excitement. I’m now based in Stratford-Upon-Avon at the University’s Shakespeare Institute, and the archival and theatrical resources that are available to me as a result are amazing. No other university lets you live and study in Shakespeare’s home town in this way.
What was your motivation for undertaking postgraduate study?
I’ve always known that I want to go into professional theatre as a career, and that this is a highly competitive industry so I felt that having a Masters degree in my subject would give me an edge over other applicants when applying for jobs.
Not only does the MA give me an advantage in the job market, but I’ve also been able to spend an awesome year studying something I’m passionate about and building on the skills and knowledge that I developed during my undergraduate degree.