International stage director brings Shakespeare alive

Rob Clare

“I auditioned for plays to meet girls,” says Shakespeare expert Rob Clare.

Rob Clare, an internationally known expert when it comes to Shakespeare, brought his knowledge to UIC, directing the UIC Theatre production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” that opens Friday.

“I had no plans to be an actor or to direct,” Clare said. “I was studying English literature at Oxford and my college was all males.

“I auditioned for plays to meet girls, really. Instead, I instantly fell in love with the theatre.”

As an actor, Clare worked first with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Exchange Theatre, Britain’s leading regional repertory company.

He came to the United States and appeared on Broadway, then became a staff director for the National Theatre in London. He didn’t have a lot of experience directing at the time, but again, he fell in love with it.

“By then, a lot of highly respected people had told me how to act Shakespeare,” Clare said.

“And yet, they often contradicted each other. I wanted to make sense of what they all said, and to apply it all in a way that made sense to actors.”

Clare’s next step was a doctorate at Oxford University in approaches to acting Shakespeare.

“I began to apply the wisdom I had received, as well as developing some more thoughts of my own,” he said.

His work has taken him to India, Ireland, Australia and Germany, as well as the U.S. His home base is now New York, but Chicago is the hometown of his wife, actress Reiko Aylesworth.

“She’s brilliant,” Clare said. “I absolutely love having her around in rehearsal — for many reasons, of course.

“But she’s a sounding board for me, and I hugely value her opinion. So she’s been here to help out with additional text work for ‘Twelfth Night,’ too.”

The couple recently performed together in a simplified version of “Macbeth” at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Va., which houses a replica of the indoor Blackfriars stage that Shakespeare used.

Although he enjoys traveling, Clare will remain in the States for now.

“I have dear friends and family back in Europe that I visit from time to time. But I love the wide open spaces here,” he said.

He has no interest in going back to being an actor for hire.

“It’s a tough life. Good luck to anyone in that position,” he said.

Right now, he’s enjoying his work with UIC students. He doesn’t like to think long-term about his plans.

“I have a full and interesting résumé, sure, but it was because I simply went with some great offers that came along,” he said. “In fact, I love not entirely knowing what is going to happen next.

Being busy is good, and I’m booked straight until March. But after that, I have no definite idea. That’s part of what makes it all exciting.”

“Twelfth Night” opens this weekend, with performances Friday, Saturday and Nov. 21, 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 20 and 24 at 2 p.m.; and Tuesday at noon, all at the UIC Theatre, 1044 W. Harrison St.

Tickets are $11 for UIC students, $14 for UIC faculty and staff and $16 for the general public. To order, call 312-996-2939.

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