A brief interview with Chloe Malendewicz, site manager of Shakespeare’s New Place

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A brief interview with Chloe Malendewicz, site manager of Shakespeare’s New Place By Sara Marie Westh

All the rest is silence

On the other side of the wall;

And the silence ripeness,

And the ripeness all.

(WH Auden The Sea and the Mirror: A Commentary on Shakespeare’s The Tempest)

As in the final lines of Auden’s poem there is an almost reverberating quality to the expectation surrounding the opening of Shakespeare’s New Place tomorrow. From the other side of the wall, all passers-by have been able to glimpse the gradual creation of the gardens within; a silver globe recently appeared perched atop a slender pole, the green wings of a huge round hedge could be seen unfolding earlier in the year, and from the top of the RSC tower a tree with glittering leaves can be made out glittering through summer haze and rain alike. Behind the scaffolding, a gate has been taking form, crowned by Shakespeare’s coat of arms, and on the New Place website an ever-expanding gallery of mouth-watering photos have been promising us a brave new world of flowers and sunlight since April.

With so much to look forward to, I gave in to the suspense, and in the service of all my fellow Shakespeareans sought out Chloe Malendewicz, site manager of Shakespeare’s New Place for a brief interview: Chloe is the New Place site manager, putting her in charge of the overall site, visitor experience, day to day running, and future planning.

The Trust is deeply grateful for the heritage lottery funding that allowed them to redevelop he site, the goal of which is to create a site where Shakespeare would come to reflect, an echo of the place where he lived, and where anything he wrote from 1597 could have been written. This awareness of Shakespeare’s life and material heritage forms a consistent theme across the site; sonnets and plays form part of the garden itself. In the case of the sonnets, the first few lines are inscribed on the grounds, and each play is listed on the site. This permanent exhibition is incorporated into an area where visitors are invited to walk, reflect, sit, and think about what Shakespeare means to us now. A chair and a desk, a reimagining of what Shakespeare would have sat at, allows visitors rest, take in the atmosphere, and share their experience as photos on social media. The circular hedge visible over the top of the evergreens marks the actual site of New Place; the specific space of the house that Shakespeare owned. The circle provides an indication of the physical space of New Place, letting visitors work their thoughts to inhabit it. Further back on the site a magnificent knot garden has taken form, parted into four squares, and based on a design from the 1920’s. Knot gardens were quite popular in the Tudor period, although, Chloe recounts, technically, they were for the very wealthy. A viewing platform at the back of the New Place Exhibition Centre gives visitors a birds-eye view of the garden, letting them appreciate the intricate design of the gardens from above. The glittering leaves seen from the RSC tower are those of the Greenwood Tree in the Great Garden. Back in the time of Shakespeare’s ownership of New Place, this land would have been given over to sheds and farming space back, but for the current project it has been incorporated into the New Place site. The Greenwood Tree is a communal and commemorative exhibit: patrons can donate money to have a leaf dedicated to a family member, work colleague, themselves, their dear ones – allowing them to claim a permanent moment in the artistic endeavour of New Place. The leaves have already begun to clothe the branches in gold and silver, but, Chloe points out, more remain available for donation. The wonderful New Place team is working really hard behind the scenes and everyone is really excited about the opening. The team is undergoing training at the moment, getting ready for when we open doors tomorrow.

 

The views expressed in this post are author’s own.

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Author:Sara Westh

Sara is a fourth year PhD student at the Shakespeare Institute, researching authorial intent in editing Shakespeare by way of philosophy of mind. She has been associate editor for Blogging and Reviewing Shakespeare for a year now, and is thoroughly enjoying herself. She also works for the Shakespeare Institute, the Shakespeare Institute Library, and Shakespeare Survey.

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