British Actors of Tour de Force At ECSU

Shakespeares Lovers

Professional British actors of Tour de Force will be in residence at Eastern Connecticut State University during the first week of February offering Shakespeare acting workshops and performances. The object of the Tour de Force company, whose patrons are Alan Ayckbourne and Kenneth Branagh, "is to produce entertainment of a high international standard; to educate and encourage younger audiences; to develop and promote European cultural projects to the wider international community."

Tour de Force is comprised of a team of Theatre artists who have worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre and are committed to bringing Shakespeare's work to life. Their workshops "designed to give an insight into classical performance from the actor's point of view" encourage students "to work in rehearsal style - a method which proves to be both creatively stimulating and fun."

James Simmons and Clare Byam Shaw will be this year's Tour de Force guest artists. They both bring extensive professional training and experience with them to the USA. Mr. Simmons is currently an Assistant Director of the National Youth Theatre and a Director of Tour de Force. As stated in his biography:

"James trained at the National Youth Theatre and L.A.M.D.A. He has played across the country (England) in repertory and spent three years with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, in London and on tour, in England and in Australia. He played the Narrator in "Mr. A's Amazing Maze Plays" by Alan Ayckbourn at the National Theatre and has worked with Kenneth Branagh's Renaissance Theatre Company playing Aguecheek in "Twelfth Night" and Titus Lartius "Cius in "Coriolanus" at Chichester. He played Jack Absolute in "The Rivals" at Chichester and in the West End. He has recently completed eight months playing Kipps in "The Woman In Black" at the Fortune Theatre. "

In addition, Mr. Simmons' film credits "include 'The Whistleblower' and 'Blue Ice' with Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh's 'Henry VI' in which he played the Duke of York. On T.V. his many appearances include 'The Professionals,' 'Rumpole, 'Hannay," "The Bill,"Soldier, Soldier,"Chancer" and as Jim in the B.B.C. sit-com 'Grown Ups.' He can at
 present be seen in C.I.T.V.'s "Animal Ark' playing vet Adam Hope. He has broadcast extensively and was a member of the BBC Radio Repertory Company. He can be heard in "War and Peace' later this year playing Anatole Kuragin."

Clare Byam Shaw trained at L.A.M.D.A. and was awarded The Matthew Forsyth Prize in 1979. Her television credits include performances in the B.B.C.'s "Lovejoy," "Growing Pains," "The House of Elliot," "Casualty," "Bergerac," "Gaudy Nights," "All the World's A Stage," "Waters of The Moon," and "Unity Mitford." Film credits include "Anna Lee," "May to December," "Saracen," and "Prospects." Ms. Byam Shaw's Theatre credits include The Royal Shakespeare Company's "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Cyrano de Bergerac" at Stratford and London as well as on tour in the USA and in Europe.

She has also played in the National Theatre's "Second Mrs. Tanquery" as well as performed in repertory as Margaret in the Birmingham Rep's "A Man For All Seasons" and Alison in "Look Back In Anger." Other credits include "Henry V," "The Way of the World," "Julius Caesar," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and numerous others.

As part of their weeklong residency, James Simmons and Clare Byam Shaw will be presenting a University Hour, "Performing Shakespeare," on Wednesday, February 4th at 3pm in the MPR at ECSU's Student Center. Admission is free to this event. Wednesday through Friday evenings, ECSU students will participate in acting workshops exploring Shakespearean text, character and interpretation.

As a finale, Tour de Force presents a series of scenes entitled "Shakespeare's Lovers" to be performed in ECSU's Harry Hope Theatre on Saturday, February 7th at 8pm. The Harry Hope Theatre is located on the groundfloor of ECSU's Shafer Hall on the corner of High and Valley Streets in Willimantic.