July 8, 2008

SAM WANAMAKER AWARD 2008 given to ex-pat Kiwi theatre historian    

Shakespeare’s Globe has awarded the 2008 Sam Wanamaker Award to Andrew Gurr, Professor Emeritus at the University of Reading, and until recently Director of Globe Research at Shakespeare’s Globe, London.

Although Professor Andrew (John) Gurr was born in Leicester, he grew up in New Zealand where he was a student at Auckland Grammar School in the 1950s. Professor Gurr holds an MA (First Class Honours) from The University of Auckland and a PhD from Kings College at the University of Cambridge. He was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate from The University of Auckland last year. Professor Gurr has taught Shakespeare at universities in New Zealand, Africa, the USA, and in the UK for over 40 years. His academic posts include a lectureship in English at Victoria University of Wellington (1959). Since 1976 he was  a professor of English at the University of Reading (Head of Department, 1979-86), where he taught Shakespeare studies until he retired recently. He was also Co-Director of the Renaissance Texts Research Centre based at Reading University.

Professor Gurr is a leading theatre historian of the Shakespeare period;  at the Globe he spent twenty years chairing the committee that determined the Globe’s dimensions and shape and advised on the historic authenticity of its construction. During this time he was also an advisor to the Executive Designer, Dr Raymond Boyce, and Project Manager, Dawn Sanders, on New Zealand’s Globe Theatre Hangings, our gift to the reconstructed Globe.

"We are thrilled to see Professor (Andy) Gurr honoured in this way," said Shakespeare Globe Centre NZ’s CEO, Dawn Sanders, "His wise counsel was woven into our contribution to this international project as well."

Professor Gurr says the new theatre has been an "extraordinary success". "The new Globe has generated fresh enthusiasm for Shakespeare and has shifted people’s thinking about theatre," Professor Gurr says.

"The bulk of the audiences are young, and that’s an absolute innovation. We have a real mix of the green and the grey but the green certainly pre-dominate," he says.

The Sam Wanamaker Award was instituted by the Globe in 1994 to celebrate work which has increased the understanding and enjoyment of Shakespeare, and which has a similar pioneering quality to Sam Wanamaker’s work.  Previous winners in the field of scholarship include Glynne Wickham and John Orrell, in the field of theatre include Paul Scofield, Barrie Rutter, Stephen Unwin and Cicely Berry.  Last year the award was given jointly to Mark Rylance, Claire van Kampen and Jenny Tiramani. In 2006 it was awarded to Dawn Sanders.

Patrick Spottiswoode, Director of Globe Education, Shakespeare’s Globe, said: " Anyone who visits the Globe is meeting Andrew Gurr’s scholarship in lath and plaster. The Globe is perhaps his most popular publication to date, a best-seller considering nearly 8 million people have seen it since it opened in 1997.  He ensured that academic rigour and integrity underpinned  the Globe reconstruction, and the value of his contribution cannot be overestimated."

Professor Gurr’s many academic books include ‘The Shakespearean Stage 1574-1642’, now about to go into its fourth edition, ‘Playgoing in Shakespeare’s London’, now in its third, ‘The Shakespearian Playing Companies’, a history of ‘The Shakespeare Company 1594-1642’, and soon a history of ‘Shakespeare’s Opposites: The Admiral’s Men 1594-1625’, the company that performed at the Rose and the Fortune. He has edited several plays including Shakespeare’s Richard II and  Henry V.

Professor Gurr is married to New Zealander, Libby (nee Gordon).

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