Shakespeare's bargain basement

The Rose Theater reopens, sort of

Published April 14, 1999 10:00AM (EDT)

The sodden remains of Shakespeare's Rose Theatre, located on the south bank of the River Thames, in London, were opened to visitors Wednesday. The foundations of the renowned site were discovered 10 years ago during the excavation for an 11-story office building. Activists, many of them from the British theater community, couldn't stop the building from being erected, but they did manage to persuade the government to fork over enough money for developers to suspend the building on girders so that the site underneath may be viewed.

Except right now it's really just kind of a basement. Visitors stand on a viewing platform in front of a water-covered concrete cap; underneath the cap, the theater remains are kept moist with a system of irrigation pipes and sand. (Apparently, the Thames mud is what preserved the remains in the first place.) The site can't be fully excavated until the building is pulled down, sometime within the next 10 years. Until then, for an admission price of $4.80, visitors get to see a pool of water, some concrete and a video of the theater's history narrated by actor Ian McKellen, which also includes scenes from "Shakespeare in Love." Trhs romantique!

By Stephanie Zacharek

Stephanie Zacharek is a senior writer for Salon Arts & Entertainment.

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