Artistic director

benspillerBen is passionate about Shakespeare. They love 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 their 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 they were awarded MA (Distinction) in European Renaissance Culture. While at the centre, they developed their keen interest in Shakespeare by exploring the playwright's work in a European context, both practically and theoretically.

Ben introduces a 1623 scratch night at Derby Theatre Before this, they gained BA (Honours) in Theatre and Performance Studies, also at Warwick, where they were president of the award-winning WUDS (Warwick University Drama Society) with whom they directed and produced stage productions at Warwick Arts Centre and beyond including the National Student Drama Festival, where WUDS won Best Production.

Directing credits include: Queer Lady M (1623); Ophelia's Garden (Royal & Derngate, Northampton); 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 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: Doctor in All Of Me (PAD Productions), 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 credits include: Fair Is Foul (DH Ensemble, in BSL and English); Queer Lady M (1623); Troilus and Cressida (World Shakespeare Festival); The Course of True Love (BBC Gardeners' World Live); Sinful ShaXXXpeare (RSC Fringe); Stand-Up Shakespeare (Nottingham Comedy Festival); Romeo and Juliet (Derby Museums); Emergency Shakespeare (Watch This Space at the National Theatre); Macbeth (Poole's Cavern); Ellen Terry - Shakespeare's Leading Lady (Smallhythe Place); The Winter's Tale (Joseph Wright Festival); Ha Ha Shakespeare (QUAD); Midsummer Magic (Rosliston Forestry Centre); Much Ado About Nothing (Derby LIVE); and Supernatural Shakespeare (Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Festival).

Ben talks to a primary school about ShakespearePublication 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.

Workshop 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 Leeds 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.

Barefeet.jpgOther 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.

Ben-and-Gemma.jpgBen directed A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2016 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.

More 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 Queer Lady M. Bringing together drag, autobiography 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 Queer Lady M page and by following @QueerLadyM on Twitter. Queer Lady M is supported by Arts Council England, Attenborough Arts Centre, Attitude Magazine, Derby Theatre, Derbyshire LGBT+, QUAD and Friends of 1623.


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