For five years, the University has been fortunate enough to have a working relationship with one of the world’s finest performing arts troupes – the Royal Shakespeare Company. The RSC has once again taken residence here in Ann Arbor and has begun to make its presence known through community involvement.

For the most part, the University has largely welcomed the RSC. However in the past, members of the University community, notably University Regent Andrea Fisher Newman (R-Ann Arbor), have grumbled that the cost of bringing the RSC to the University is too high. But the RSC’s residency actually benefits the entire community, bringing with it prestige and, most importantly, the opportunity for students to interact with a world-class performing arts troupe. The relationship between the University and the RSC should remain unaltered.

The company’s visit centers on the performance of three play, among them Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus” and the “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” In addition to two of the Bard plays, the RSC is also bringing its world-renowned adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s novel “Midnight’s Children.” The March 12 performance will mark the U.S. premiere of this play, an historic event itself. Immediately following the performance, there will be a public reception at Zanzibar restaurant on South State Street, where the community can meet the casts of all three shows.

The company has made and will continue to make numerous visits to classes and special events to share with students their experiences in the troupe. For example, an RSC voice director visited a Residential College class last week to discuss the nuances of language used by William Shakespeare in his plays and the implementation of diction by performers. The advice that RSC performers can dispense to University students is invaluable and their presence in University classrooms provides students with new ideas and interpretations of their work.

Company members have also embraced the activities of the student body by participating in events on campus. On March 3, RSC members participated in a student production of “Lysistrata,” a Greek play with peaceful themes. Last week, Greg Hicks (who plays the title role in “Coriolanus”), along with a few of his castmates, attended the “Books not Bombs” rally on the Diag to protest possible war in Iraq, read poetry and share their personal feelings on the subject.

The RSC residency is an enriching force here at the University. Students and community members alike benefit from this collaboration. The arts are an important element of higher education, and the University’s commitment to this sort of experience is laudable.

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