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Last Updated: Friday, 10 October, 2003, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
US soldiers armed with the Bard
Many of Shakespeare's plays centred around love and war
Troops in the US are to be treated to performances of Shakespeare after $1m (602,000) was set aside in the defence bill for an arts project.

The idea of the project is to introduce more arts to bases to give soldiers respite from the rigours of army life.

Soldiers are perhaps more used to visits from stars like the late Bob Hope or country star Tim McGraw.

But the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) organisation believes the Bard will strike a chord with soldiers.

Spokesman Felicia Knight said: "It runs the gamut of human dramas: love, passion, war and death. I think these productions, whether it is Othello or Macbeth, will resonate with them."

Alaska is expected to be on the list of 16 bases to benefit from visiting theatre companies with a production of Othello.

US soldiers
The intense emotion of Shakespeare could strike a chord with soldiers

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has been credited with securing the $1m grant in the $368bn (225.5bn) defence bill.

Reach communties

The news comes as arts groups in the US face a massive funding crisis as state governments look to slash budgets by as much as $100m (69m).

Among the performing arts groups involved in Shakespeare in the Communities are the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and the Aquila Theatre Company of New York.

"If we are truly going to fulfil our charge of bringing art of indisputable excellence to Americans, we have to reach into communities where we've never gone before," NEA chairman Dana Gioia said.

The Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery will continue its version of Macbeth at military bases said Alan Harrison, the festival's managing director.

"What we expect is that people will have the same positive response that they had 200 years ago to the English playwright," Harrison said.

"It really hits to the heart of an emotional response, the kind that drives countries."

Army bases are no strangers to high-culture. The US Army has its own touring theatre company called Bravo!, which recently performed The Complete Works of William Shakespeare...Abridged around the US.

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