BEN SPILLER
Artistic director

benspillerBen is passionate about Shakespeare. He loves inspiring, surprising and affecting people with the playwright's innovative language, vibrant characters and exciting sense of performance.

Working as artistic director of award-winning 1623 theatre company - based at QUAD, Derby's thriving arts centre - gives Ben the opportunity to put his passion into practice and share it with other people. 

Further to working with professional artists on Shakespearean productions in locations ranging from a cave to a shopping centre, Ben has facilitated Shakespeare workshops and discussions with people aged from five to 100 at all levels of ability and in various contexts. These include young people and adults with special educational needs, school teachers on their INSET days, people affected by dementia, business managers in professional development workshops and members of the public in regular Shakespeare-based workshops and discussions.

Ben graduated from the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at the University of Warwick in 2001, when he was awarded MA (Distinction) in European Renaissance Culture. While at the centre, he developed his keen interest in Shakespeare by exploring the playwright's work in a European context, both practically and theoretically.

Before this, he gained BA (Honours) in Theatre and Performance Studies, also at Warwick, where he was president of the award-winning WUDS (Warwick University Drama Society) with whom he directed and produced stage productions at Warwick Arts Centre and beyond including the National Student Drama Festival, where WUDS won Best Production.

Ben introduces a 1623 scratch night at Derby Theatre Directing credits include: Lear/Cordelia (1623); A Midsummer Night's Dream (Barefeet Theatre, Zambia); Lear/dementia (Derby Theatre Studio); Troilus and Cressida (London 2012 World Shakespeare Festival); Emergency Shakespeare (Watch This Space at the National Theatre); Shakespeare's Summer of Love (Glastonbury Festival); Sinful Shakespeare (RSC Complete Works Festival Fringe); The Winter's Tale (Joseph Wright Festival); Ha Ha Shakespeare (QUAD); Midsummer Magic (World Heritage Festival); Ellen Terry - Shakespeare's Leading Lady (National Trust); Romeo and Juliet (Vintage Festival at the Royal Festival Hall); Macbeth (Derwent Valley Mills Discovery Festival); Hamlet (Buxton Festival Fringe at Poole's Cavern); and scenes from Richard III, Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest (Shakespeare for Schools DVD).

Acting credits include: Petruchio in Pop-Up Shakespeare (Bulwell Festival), Falstaff in Shakespeare's Summer of Love (Glastonbury Festival), Shakespeare in The Course of True Love, Stand-Up Shakespeare and on walkabout (1623 on tour), Hecat in Sinful Shakespeare and Macbeth (1623 on tour), and The Miller in The Canterbury Tales (Distraction Theatre).

Dramaturgical (scripting) credits include: Troilus and Cressida; The Course of True Love; Sinful ShaXXXpeare; Stand-Up Shakespeare; Romeo and Juliet; Emergency Shakespeare; Macbeth; Ellen Terry - Shakespeare's Leading Lady; The Winter's Tale; Ha Ha Shakespeare; Midsummer Magic; The Merchant of Venice; Much Ado About Nothing; and Supernatural Shakespeare.

Publication credits include: articles in Shakespeare Bulletin, Early Modern Literary Studies and the Renaissance Journal; and an essay on Henry VI Part 1 in Goddesses and Queens: the iconographies of Elizabeth I, edited by Annaliese Connolly and Lisa Hopkins for Palgrave Macmillan.

Ben talks to a primary school about ShakespeareWorkshop and teaching credits include: Shakespeare theatre and literature courses at the Universities of Oxford, Warwick and Nottingham; Shakespeare film courses and introductions at QUAD; and facilitating Shakespeare workshops in schools, colleges, universities, theatres and youth theatres across the UK including West Yorkshire Playhouse, Buxton Opera House, Derby Theatre and the National Youth Theatre.

Awards include: BAFTA for Young People's Digital Learning; Creative Industries Network Awards for Best Live Event; and the London 2012 Inspire Mark for The Great Shakespearean Workout. Nominations include Best Production for Hamlet at Buxton Festival Fringe.

Other experiences include: co-director of Still Cursing photography project with SHOW ME PICTURES; board member of Surtal Arts; mentor with Arts Emergency; regional judge of the BBC's Off By Heart Shakespeare schools competition; chair of Derby Independent Theatre Network; assistant performing arts officer at Arts Council England; and A-level examiner for Drama, Theatre Studies and English Literature.

In 2014, Ben directed a research-and-development project that explored King Lear in the context of dementia. Supported by Arts Council England, Derbyshire County Council, Derby Theatre, QUAD and the University of Derby, this was 1623's most ambitious project to date. For more details, please click here.

Last year (2016), Ben directed A Midsummer Night's Dream with Barefeet Theatre in Lusaka, Zambia, as part of the British Council's Shakespeare Lives project that explored the world-wide legacy of Shakespeare and his work 400 years after his death. This new interpretation of the play brought together Shakespearean text, new writing, Zambian drumming and energetic dancing to share the dream of a Lusakan child.

You can watch Ben's daily video diaries in Africa and read transcripts of them by clicking here.

Most recently, Ben co-directed with Louie Ingham the pilot production of Lear/Cordelia, 1623's double bill of Shakespeare and new writing based on the findings of an extensive R&D project on King Lear and dementia. Lear/Cordelia pilot production was supported by Arts Council England, Attenborough Arts Centre, Derby Theatre, Derby City Council and QUAD. Click here for more details

Ben is currently developing a new show Lady M. Bringing together drag, biography and Shakespeare, this vibrant new play features former Funny Girls artist Shane Gabriel and it's all about celebrating the fluidity of gender, time and place. Find out more by visiting our Upcoming page and by following @QueerLadyM on Twitter. Lady M is supported by Arts Council England, Derby Theatre, Derbyshire LGBT+, QUAD and Friends of 1623.

 

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