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Friday, 4 February, 2000, 13:10 GMT
Shakespeare link-up marks millennium

birthplace William Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon

By News Online's Alex Kirby

A scheme to mark the birth of William Shakespeare in the millennium year is attracting support from 9,000 people in more than 30 countries.

The Shakespeare Centre millennium link project is enlisting professional and amateur actors, theatre companies, schools and individuals, in what it says is the biggest festival of the playwright's work.

Registering for the Bardathon, as it's being called, is free, and anyone between the ages of 11 and 30 can register to take part, either on their own or as part of a group.

Archive material

All they have to do is stage a performance based on any of Shakespeare's plays or stories, in any medium - dance, music, video, radio or anything else - during April, the month of Shakespeare's birth and death.

Then they are asked to send a record of the performance to the organisers, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon, for preservation in a millennium archive. The record can be a photograph, video, review or on the internet.

The New Millennium Experience Company has provided funding for eight projects involving professional theatre companies who are working with young people on their Shakespeare performances.

o'connor Teresa O'Connor, who first thought of the Bardathon
A school in Swindon which is registering for the project has signed up 28 other schools, with which it plans to perform the entire Shakespeare canon during the first two weeks of April. More than 1,000 children will be involved in staging 30-minute performances of every play he wrote.

Another school, in East Sussex, is putting on a musical version of Twelfth Night.

The project is the idea of Teresa O'Connor, of the Birthplace Trust, who says it is meant to make sure that Shakespeare and the theatre are passed on to the next generation.

Not middle-class

She told BBC News Online: "It seemed a very obvious thing, if we were going to have a big celebration of the millennium, to have a Shakespeare celebration, because he's part of our heritage.

"And it has to be for the young. So often Shakespeare is thought of as middle-class, middle-aged, and for middle England. He's not.

"The project has a lot to do with self-esteem. If people can do Shakespeare, they can do the best."

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