Just over a year ago I was offered a Birmingham Masters Scholarship to come and study the MA in Shakespeare and Creativity, taught jointly by the Shakespeare Institute and Royal Shakespeare Company, both of which are based in Stratford-upon-Avon. This morning I got my dissertation back and am now certain that my degree will be a distinction.
This is my second masters degree. My first was from Oxford (an MSt in English Literature 1550-1700) and I was annoyingly close to a distinction that time with an overall average of 69, so whichever part of me is still an insufferably insecure little girl who wants to get top marks in everything has been appeased. You can sit down now, Hermione.
The only reason that I even considered another masters degree (aside from the vital scholarship money) was because it was a hybrid course: some of the modules were pretty much repetitions of the work I had done on the early modern period at Oxford, but some were practical theatre modules taught with and in the RSC.
It was as cool as that sounds. We had workshops with practitioners from almost every discipline which, as a writer, was invaluable: I can now factor in set, sound, lighting etc with a far greater appreciation of practicality and professionalism. These sessions were led by industry legends and we met directors and literary agents, and ultimately got to put on two performances in The Other Place, one an interactive exhibition, and one a double-bill of plays.
I co-wrote one of the two plays. We had a budget of £1000 to cover everything, and almost everyone in both groups had a second job. I had always wanted to learn a technical skill, so I was our lighting designer and I got to wear headphones and press buttons throughout both shows.
Everyone at the RSC was so brilliant and kind (Scott, Alex, and Laura thank you so much for putting up with our nonsense for a whole week of tech) and I could wax lyrical till the cows come home about how exhilarating it was to be writing for and working in those spaces.
You can find out more about the play I co-wrote with my half of the cohort by looking up ‘The Folkman’s Tale’ on my ‘Plays’ page. I have lots of thoughts about the MA and the Shakespeare Institute in general, but this is supposed to be a news update, not a confessional blog so do get in touch if you’re considering it, and I'll tell you the tale in my best Ancient Mariner voice.