Founder & Artistic Director
Shakespeare & Company
Tina Packer is one of the country's foremost experts on Shakespeare and theatre arts and, though it is debatable, she probably has directed more Shakespeare productions than any other woman in the world. She is the founder and Artistic Director of Shakespeare & Company, now one of the largest and most critically acclaimed Shakespeare Festivals in North America. Packer founded Shakespeare & Company in 1978 with the goal of creating a classical American Shakespeare company of the highest standard that holds language as the center of the theatrical experience. It is rooted in the ideals of the Elizabethans: inquiry, passion, love, poetry, physical prowess, balance, and harmony. Honoring the human being is fundamental to this aesthetic, and finding the regenerative moment in acting and teaching are the skills demanded of Company members.
Born in Wolverhampton, England, Packer trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, was an Associate Artist with the R.S.C., and performed in the West End and in over 20 productions for BBC and ITV television. She received the 1992 Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Direction in Boston, the 1996 Boston Theatre Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, and recently the 2001 Elliot Norton Award for Continued Excellence in Theatre. Along with Massachusetts' highest cultural recognition, The Commonwealth Award, she received Guggenheim and Bunting Fellowships for her own performance piece exploring Shakespeare's women, Women of Will: parts I, II and III. She is the subject of Helen Epstein's biography, The Companies She Keeps, and the WGBH film, "Sex, Violence & Poetry: a Portrait of Tina Packer," and the recipient of more than 18 awards, honors, and fellowships. She has lectured or been the keynote speaker at over 30 colleges and universities.
Packer has directed every major Shakespeare play. She and Shakespeare & Company actors recently collaborated with various regional theatres and symphonies on its production of Romeo and Juliet, and in 1999, they worked in partnership with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and Boston Pops on their one-hour concert, Brush Up Your Shakespeare, for PBS-TV. In 2001, Tina Packer's book, Power Plays: Shakespeare's Lessons in Leadership & Management, co-authored with Columbia Business School professor John O. Whitney, was published by Simon & Schuster and spent several weeks on the Business Best-Seller charts. Her children's book, Tales from Shakespeare, won the Parents' Choice Award following its publication by Scholastic in 2004. She is currently drafting another book that documents the aesthetic and teaching techniques of Shakespeare & Company.
Along with lecturing and directing at Columbia, Harvard and M.I.T., she continues to spearhead an international effort to reconstruct an historically accurate reproduction of the 1587 Rose Playhouse, where Shakespeare's plays were first performed. It is a cornerstone of her plan for a Centre for Shakespeare Studies and Performance in Lenox, Massachusetts. Theatre professionals from all over the world have either trained, directed, or worked with Packer and Shakespeare & Company, including Karen Allen, John Barton, Gillian Barge, Zoe Caldwell, Rebecca DeMorney, Richard Dreyfus, Olympia Dukakis, Jennifer Grant, Peter Hall, Anne Jackson, Christine Lahti, Andie McDowell, Ian McKellen, Joe Morton, Bill Murray, Bronson Pinchot, Diana Quick, Keanu Reeves, Ian Richardson, John Schlesinger, Paul Scofield, Alicia Silverstone, Anna Deavere Smith, Janet Suzman, Courtney Vance, Sigourney Weaver, and Raquel Welch.On stage, whether it is with elementary school students, Harvard business school graduates, film celebrities, or her own company of artists, Tina Packer trains actors to free their voices, speak their own truths, and connect each moment of personal discovery to create an epiphany. Her approach to theatre is summed up in the following quote: "This is the transformative power of theatre, based on humanity's ever-present need to tell personal stories of survival and enlightenment. The actor's job is to speak that which cannot be spoken."