Former Donmar Warehouse Artistic Director Sam Mendes has announced a new transatlantic theatre venture linking the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in New York and the Old Vic in London.
The Bridge Project is a three-year initiative in which an Anglo-American theatre company, creative produced by Mendes and producing partner Caro Newling, will perform a double bill of classic works at BAM and The Old Vic, with at least one other international residency, initially at the Piccolo Teatro in Milan.
The project begins in 2008, when Mendes directs Shakespeare’s Hamlet and The Tempest with a cast led by Stephen Dillane playing Hamlet and Prospero. Simon Russell Beale, who has been directed by Mendes on many occasions, has signed up to star in the company’s 2009 double bill of The Winter’s Tale and The Cherry Orchard. The full company will be drawn from leading British and American actors. The plays for the 2010 season are yet to be confirmed.
Mendes’s collaboration with BAM and its Executive Producer Joseph V Melillo began in in 2003 when the director’s double-bill of Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya (also starring Russell Beale) transferred from the Donmar to BAM’s Harvey Theater, winning awards on both sides of the pond. The director has enjoyed a working relationship with Old Vic Artistic Director Kevin Spacey since Spacey starred in Mendes’s first film as director, American Beauty, in 1999.
According to press information, The Bridge Project “places the exchange of ideas, talent and creativity between London and New York at the heart of the process, and is borne out of Sam Mendes, Joseph V Melillo and Kevin Spacey’s shared desire to produce large-scale classical theatre for international audiences”.
The first season of plays runs at the Old Vic from May-June 2008. Spacey commented: “I couldn't be more excited about the prospect of this unique partnership. It has been my hope since I became Artistic Director of the Old Vic that the work we do in London should have an international life, and particularly, a presence in New York… This new venture takes the desire for the Old Vic to be in conversation with the New York theatre community to a new level, by placing the collaboration between us and BAM at the centre of the creative process.”
Mendes founded the Donmar Warehouse and was Artistic Director from 1992-2002, during which time his directorial credits included Assassins, Cabaret, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Glass Menagerie and The Blue Room, some of which transferred to Broadway. He established Neal Street Productions with Donmar producer Newling in 2003 and the duo has since produced many plays both in London and New York including Electra, The Real Thing (starring Dillane) and Take Me Out.