John Bell to leave Bell Shakespeare in 2015

John Bell_photo_PierreToussaintCoinciding with Bell Shakespeare’s 25th anniversary, Founder and Artistic Director, John Bell has announced he will leave the company, handing over the reigns to Artistic Director Peter Evans at the end of 2015.

“By the end of 2015 I will have led the company I founded for twenty five years. This coincides with my seventy fifth birthday. It seems to me to be the perfect time to step aside and hand over the reins to my Co-Artistic Director, Peter Evans,” said John Bell AO, Founder & Artistic Director.

“I have had this strategy in mind for some time, which is why I asked Peter, who first worked with Bell Shakespeare in 1996 and continued to work with us throughout the years, to join me as my Co-Artistic Director. After five years of working alongside me and the culmination of his long experience with the Company, I am confident Peter is more than ready to take on the leadership of Bell Shakespeare.”

“He will bring a new energy and renewed focus to the company. His outstanding productions have earned him widespread respect and support with all of our stakeholders and throughout the industry. I wish him every success and joy in the role.”

“I am immensely proud of all this company has achieved over the last twenty five years, against the most formidable odds. That success is a tribute to the passion, enthusiasm and generosity of many hundreds of people— artists, Board members, as well as our private donors, corporate partners, government partners and, of course, audiences – somewhere in the region of 2.5million.”

“It is also important to note the extraordinary staff who are behind the scenes, day in and day out. Their commitment and enthusiasm has been the engine that has propelled Bell Shakespeare forward. I shall miss walking side-by-side with the Bard on a daily basis; my life has been immeasurably enriched by maintaining a daily conversation with one of the greatest minds of all time—questioning, probing, researching and giving his words breath.”

“If I had my life again, I would choose no other course. I would try to do things better after the lessons I’ve learned, but I can think of no greater privilege than the opportunity to devote one’s life and energy to the works of Shakespeare. And for that I am grateful to all who have made it possible.”

“A special tribute should be paid to the many self sacrificing and eminent people who have and continue to serve on the Bell Shakespeare Board and Artistic Advisory Council. Without the support, guidance and personal generosity of so many of our Board members this company could not have flourished. And this is a good moment to recall the vision and generosity of our founding patron, the late Anthony Gilbert AO.”

“The Bell Shakespeare mission has always been to keep Shakespeare alive through performances, available and meaningful to Australians of all ages and in all parts of the continent. Classical theatre is a priceless part of our heritage and Bell Shakespeare has had enormous success in making Shakespeare and other classics a convincing part of Australia’s cultural landscape.”

“Our work in schools has been particularly significant; bringing the words to life for generations of school children, paying special regard to disadvantaged youth in remote communities and juvenile justice facilities, and benefiting generations of teachers with our workshops.”

“I am proud of the fact that Bell Shakespeare has been instrumental in launching and fostering the careers of so many actors, directors and other theatre makers. The opportunities for actors in Australia to hone their skills in the classic repertoire are very rare. I shall miss the Bell Shakespeare family. It has been my great good fortune to spend a third of my life with a bunch of the smartest, funniest, most loyal and creative people I can imagine—I shall miss their comradeship.

“The great director Peter Brook once suggested that if a group of people came together to devote themselves entirely to realising the works of Shakespeare, what an extraordinary group of people that would be. It has been my great joy to spend the last twenty-five years with such people.”

Peter Evans, Bell Shakespeare’s co-Artistic Director said “We can’t begin to measure the contribution John Bell has made to Australian theatre. Founding Bell Shakespeare 25 years ago, he showed that he is a visionary, ahead of his time.”

“Under John’s guidance Bell Shakespeare has never shied away from new ideas, never been afraid of approaching a different theatrical direction, and always encouraged artists both on and off the stage to push the boundaries.”

“Accepting the role of Artistic Director from John at the end of 2015 was no small decision – with Bell Shakespeare he created a legacy that all who engage with the Company – Board, staff, creatives and cast – feel the responsibility to uphold.”

“The spirit which John imbued in Bell Shakespeare 25 years ago will continue to be the vision under which we push forward for the next 25 years. Bell Shakespeare’s successes, in education, mainstage production, and encouraging new works inspired by Shakespeare, are a testament to John as an actor, director, and Artistic Director. I look forward to honouring what he created.”

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Image: John Bell – photo by Pierre Toussaint