A brand-new digital learning platform is set to launch with the aim of making the latest academic research available to anyone, anywhere, in a fun and interactive format. A Bit Lit’s debut event will take place on Saturday 15 January and will be the first in a series of events and courses drawing on historical and cultural research and performance expertise.
Theatre lovers and history buffs are invited to experience A Day Out in Shakespeare’s Theatre, an opportunity to imagine a trip to the theatre in the 1600s, diving into the decisions and dilemmas they might have faced while taking in the sights, sounds and even smells of the day in a two-hour experience that will test the limits of Zoom. Here we speak to founders Andy Kesson and Jimmy Tucker about what to expect.
What inspired you to launch A Bit Lit?
Opening learning up for everyone! There isn’t a space where anyone can come along and learn about anything, and we wanted to make a space that was fun, relaxed and excitingly unpredictable.
As we all learn to live with Covid and much of our lives remain online, we’re now launching A Bit Lit events and courses in the hope of bringing fresh ideas to new audiences, and to provide work for performers, creative practitioners, researchers and educators.
What can audiences expect from your first event, A Day Out in Shakespeare’s Theatre? What will the experience be like – is it mostly fun or more educational?
Fun *and* educational! We believe it is possible to do both together! This is an online, two-hour mix of different things, taking you on a trip to Shakespeare’s theatre in 1600. It will be immersive, asking our audience to think about that experience – the sights, the sounds, the smells – and interactive, asking our audience to vote for particular kinds of performance. You can expect a mash up of cutting-edge research which rewrites everything we thought we knew about the invention of theatre in Shakespeare’s time, and a brilliant cross-section of different performance styles, from classical theatre to the experimental scene. Everything we do will have an eye to newcomers to the topic, to make sure it’s accessible, and we believe the best kind of learning happens when you’re laughing.
Why did you want to focus on Shakespeare for the event?
This is the period that invented theatres and public entertainment, and did so at a time of mass plague! A Bit Lit will cover all sorts of topics in our events and courses, but for our first event we wanted to play to our strengths. Jimmy [Tucker] has been a Royal Shakespeare Company actor for twenty-five years, and Andy [Kesson] is a theatre historian with a long history of collaboration and creation with theatre companies and whose research has rewritten what we knew about the early theatres. This means we can show audiences very different ways to approach Shakespeare onstage, and expose them to the latest research discoveries, from forgotten plays to the way archaeology has remapped how theatre worked.
Tell us a fact about Shakespeare’s theatre that we haven’t heard before…
We’re always told that Shakespeare worked on an all-male stage, but women were everywhere in the theatre of his time. In fact, half of the people who set up the earliest theatres were women. Women also performed in Shakespeare’s England, whether as dancers, acrobats or actors, and we even get tantalising glimpses of women and non-binary people onstage at the theatres. In 1583, Richard Madox goes to the Theatre playhouse and sees a one-person performance by someone he understands to be non-binary.
What are your plans for the future of A Bit Lit?
We want to build this platform with our audience, so we are very open to suggestions! Most events will lead into a four-week course expanding on the same topic, so our first event will be followed by a course that repeats our visit to Shakespeare’s theatre from five different perspectives, the actors, audience, playwrights, producers and characters, offering one talk a week, one discussion with the tutor a week and a reading list.
For future courses and events, we are getting ready to announce topics such as black romance fiction, the history of dragons and queer urban histories. Our hope will always be to open up fresh topics to new audiences and to hand our platform over to new creative practitioners and scholars.
Find out more and book tickets here: Events and Courses · A Bit Lit