Modena Theatre Workshop: big titles in original language

MODENA. Founded more than fifteen years ago by Jane Elizabeth Read, teacher originally from Tasmania but Modenese by adoption, Modena Theatre Workshop is the largest theatre company in English language in Italy. MTW has seven groups of all ages, active and prolific: over the years we have tackled the most famous writers (Shakespeare, Wilde, Simon) and also niche authors, without forgetting our ambitious original scripts. The theatre festival for 2014-2015 will see six evenings of fun in English, at Teatro dei Segni (Via San Giovanni Bosco 150, Modena), with three "veterans' groups and three "fresh groups". Admission is by donation and the proceeds of the shows will support Rwanda Project.

Gazzetta di Modena - 13th of May 2015

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Theatre in English: the billboard at the start with “Grease is the word”

MODENA. The Festival of Theatre in English starts again. Or rather: "Let the Festival begin ". Now in its fourteenth year, the combination of the language of the "lords" and the art of the stage will start next Saturday. At 9pm at Teatro dei Segni will stage "Grease is the word." A preview was given in recent days with shows performed by children. Oh yes, because Modena theatre workshop (MTW), which organizes the festival, holds theatre courses in English for all ages. "We have a broad target age - explained Jane Elizabeth Read, native speaker teacher - from the very young to senior citizens." How varied is also the degree of preparation of the participants. "We need skills - answered the professor of Australian origin - both in English and in the theatre. However, the actors have different levels of experience, ranging from experts to beginners. The positive aspect is that the groups are mixed, so are balanced. In addition, there is a great solidarity among the members: they help each other. "

Gazzetta di Modena - 7th of May 2016

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“Shakespeare in blue” a comedy in English with the actors of MTW

MODENA. MTW (Modena Theatre Workshop), with the sponsorship of the City and "Circoscrizione 2", stages the 19th at Teatro dei Segni, via San Giovanni Bosco "Shakespeare in blue .... (naughty but nice!)". In this play four elderly English ladies have some difficulty maintaining their country manor. They decide to rent the house as location to a film company, thinking that they will shoot "Romeo and Juliet". But in fact the studios are doing a sexy adult movie. Or, at least, they are trying to do it! The show is in English, as are all productions of MTW, association founded and directed by Jane E. Read.

Gazzetta di Modena - 13th of December 2014

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Miracle in Modena - Interview with Jane Elizabeth Read

Far from Tasmania, in the northern Italian city of Modena, a miracle has taken place. For the past three decades, the Modena Theatre Workshop, the only English theatre company in the region, has gone from strength to stardom. And the person behind the success of this company is Tasmanian woman, Jane Read, originally from Hobart and educated in Launceston at Broadland House. She has made her home now in Modena where she has won the hearts and acclaim of Italian students and residents. It’s been a privilege to witness the adulation and esteem in which she’s regarded. Following most of her productions, she receives standing ovations and thunderous applause, surrounded by adoring students. Her stellar success is all due to hard work and personal initiative. As the director and founder of Modena Theatre Workshop, she has taken onerous risks, not for material gain but for the pleasure of teaching and sharing her love of language and theatre, especially musical theatre. Having graduated in Arts from the University of Tasmania, she took lessons in acting, but soon realised that her forte was in directing, rather than acting. She now does just about everything single-handed, including choreography, script adaptation, music, lighting, costumes, scenery and props, as well as directing more than fifteen groups of students whose ages range from fourteen years old to mature adults. She realises that the best and most enjoyable way to teach English is via theatre, approaching the challenges of plays which she adapts for students, (such as Shakespearean comedy, “Westside Story”, “Arsenic and Old Lace”, “Cinderella”, “The Canterville Ghost”, inter alia) she finds that her Italian students rapidly pick up the basics and nuances of the English language. Although she knew no Italian when she first arrived in Modena in March 1982, Jane is now bilingual, but she does all her teaching in English. And it certainly works! The students’ understanding of structures and pronunciation is evident in their polished performances on stage.

Annually, Jane directs and produces twelve plays, each of which takes large casts from fifteen to thirty actors. Each character has a substantial speaking role, which usually involves some singing and dancing. In terms of the work required in rehearsal, Jane meets each cast for ninety minutes once a week. Because the students are acting in a foreign language, more time must be spent on pronunciation, intonation, interpretation of vocabulary, etc. During lead-up to final performances, Janes says it’s an eighteen hour day. This involves stage set-up, installation of lighting design, followed by rehearsal all afternoon, then make-up and costuming prior to commencing on stage around 9.00pm. Afterwards, there is “the hardest part”: the cleaning up and pack- up after performance so that the space can be used for various purposes next day. Consecutively in May, the peak season, she averages four plays per week.

When asked about the rewards, despite all the work, Jane’s answer is spontaneous: “One of the best things is to see the students who start with zero ability and bloom into real actors. Another reward is working with disabled children: each cast has at least one and they fit in very well.” She obviously enjoys the deep affection and respect of her students and loves to see the enthusiasm and social interaction which they generate amongst themselves. Another reward has been the recognition by the Modena City Council in the form of a bronze plaque for her contributions to culture! Bravissima, Jane! Asked if she would ever consider returning to Australia, she replies: “Yes, maybe, when and if I get tired here. It’s lovely to know I will always have a home in Tasmania.”

by Janet Upcher


Asked if she has any government assistance, Jane laughs; it is all funded by student fees for tuition for the school year, September – May. Modena Theatre Workshop is a non-profit, cultural association, run by a committee meeting every two months or so, for which Jane is secretary and general factotum; the Modena City Council sponsors the company and provides ten days rent-free in theatre spaces, along with free printing of publicity. “Any profits are given to various charitable projects: at present, we are supporting a theatre group in Rwanda” says Jane. (She established this group in Rwanda last year during a voluntary working “holiday”!)

All donantions during 2016 autumn shows will go to help people suffering earthquake damage in central Italy.

In Rwanda, in 2015, Jane has involved students from a local school to stage "The Wizard of Oz".
One of our first projects: We sponsored a women’s group in Tamil Nadu where the women are learning to develop small industries with the help of Micro-credit
A teenage summer camp in the poorer north eastern area of Thailand.
Volunteer teacher training in North East Thailand
Training present and future tourist guides in the use of English to support the growth of Eco-tourism in Laos, the poorest of the south-east Asian countries.