Mark Rylance

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Mark Rylance
Mark Rylance NYC.png
Rylance in front of the Belasco Theatre in New York City on October 26, 2013
BornDavid Mark Rylance Waters
(1960-01-18) 18 January 1960 (age 54)
Ashford, Kent, England, UK
OccupationActor, theatre director, playwright
Years active1980–present
Spouse(s)Claire van Kampen
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Mark Rylance
Mark Rylance NYC.png
Rylance in front of the Belasco Theatre in New York City on October 26, 2013
BornDavid Mark Rylance Waters
(1960-01-18) 18 January 1960 (age 54)
Ashford, Kent, England, UK
OccupationActor, theatre director, playwright
Years active1980–present
Spouse(s)Claire van Kampen

Mark Rylance (born 18 January 1960) is an English actor, theatre director and playwright.

As an actor, Rylance found success on stage and screen. For his work in theatre he has won Olivier and Tony Awards among others, and a BAFTA TV Award. His film roles include Ferdinand in Prospero's Books (based on Shakespeare's The Tempest), Jay in Intimacy (after a novel by Hanif Kureishi) and Jakob von Gunten in Institute Benjamenta (after a novel by Robert Walser).

He was the first Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe in London, from 1995 to 2005.

Life and career[edit]

Early years[edit]

Rylance was born David Mark Rylance Waters in Ashford, Kent, the son of David and Anne (née Skinner) Waters, both English teachers (as an adult, he took the stage name of Mark Rylance because the name Mark Waters was already taken by someone else registered with Equity). In 1962, when he was two, his parents moved to Connecticut in the United States and in 1969, to Wisconsin, where his father taught English at a private school, the University School of Milwaukee. Rylance later attended the school, where he began acting. His first notable role was Hamlet in a 1976 production (with his own father as the First Gravedigger), and the next year he played Romeo in the school's production of Romeo and Juliet.


With considerable juvenile experience already in hand, Rylance won a scholarship by audition to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) in London. There he trained from 1978–1980 under Hugh Cruttwell, and with Barbara Bridgmont at the Chrysalis Theatre School, Balham, London. In 1980 he got his first professional work at the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre.

In 1982 and 1983, Rylance performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) both in Stratford-upon-Avon and London.

In 1988, Rylance played Hamlet with the RSC in Ron Daniels' acclaimed production that toured Ireland and Britain for a year. The play then ran in Stratford-upon-Avon, where Rylance alternated Hamlet with Romeo in the production of Romeo and Juliet that inaugurated the rebuilt Swan Theatre in Stratford. Hamlet toured to the United States for two years.

In 1990, Rylance and Claire van Kampen (later his wife) founded "Phoebus' Cart", their own theatre company. The following year, the company staged The Tempest on the road in unique, unusual sites.

Also in 1991, Rylance played the lead in Gillies Mackinnon's film The Grass Arena (1991), and won the BBC Radio Times Award for Best Newcomer. In 1993, he starred in Matthew Warchus' production of Much Ado About Nothing at the Queen's Theatre, produced by Thelma Holt. His Benedick won him an Olivier Award for Best Actor.

In 2005, he took the leading role as British weapons expert David Kelly in Peter Kosminsky's The Government Inspector, an award-winning Channel 4 production for which he himself won the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor in 2005.

In 2007, Rylance performed in Boeing Boeing in London. In 2008, he reprised the role on Broadway and subsequently won Drama Desk and Tony Awards for his performance. (For his acceptance speech for the Tony, Rylance recited a work by poet Louis Jenkins).

In 2009, Rylance won the Critics' Circle Theatre Award Best Actor, 2009 for his role of Johnny Byron in Jerusalem written by Jez Butterworth at the Royal Court Theatre in London.

In 2010 he starred in a revival of David Hirson's verse play La Bête, with David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumley. The play ran first at London's Comedy Theatre before transferring to the Music Box Theatre on Broadway, on 23 September 2010.

Also in 2010, Rylance won another Olivier award for best actor in the role of Johnny Byron in Jerusalem at the Apollo Theatre, London. In 2011 he won his second Tony Award for playing the same role in the Broadway production (for his acceptance speech, he again recited a Louis Jenkins poem). In a 2012 interview with Jonathan Ross, Stephen Fry stated that he believed Rylance was the best stage actor in the world, "phenomenal".

Globe Theatre[edit]

In 1995, Rylance became the first Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, a post he filled until 2005. Rylance directed and acted in every season, in works by Shakespeare and others, notably in all-male productions of Twelfth Night where he starred as Olivia, and Richard II where he took the title role. Under his directorate, new plays were performed at the Globe, the first being Augustine's Oak (referring to Augustine of Canterbury and Christianisation of Anglo-Saxon England) by Peter Oswald, the writer-in-residence, which was performed in 1999. A second play by Oswald followed in 2002: The Golden Ass or the Curious Man. In 2005, Oswald's third play written for the Globe was performed for the first time: The Storm, an adaptation of Plautus' comedy Rudens (The Rope) – one of the sources of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Other historical first nights were organised by Rylance while director of the Globe including Twelfth Night performed in 2002 at Middle Temple, to commemorate its first performance there exactly 400 years before, and Measure for Measure at Hampton Court in summer 2004.

Shakespeare controversy[edit]

On 8 September 2007 Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance unveiled a Declaration of Reasonable Doubt on the authorship of Shakespeare's work, after the final matinée of I am Shakespeare, a play in Chichester, Sussex.

The actual author was proposed to be Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon, the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere or Mary Sidney (Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke). The declaration named 20 prominent doubters of the past, including Mark Twain, Orson Welles, John Gielgud and Charlie Chaplin and was made by Shakespeare Authorship Coalition duly signed online by 300 people to begin new research. Jacobi and Rylance presented a copy of the document to William Leahy, head of English at Brunel University, London.[1]

Rylance wrote (co-conceived by John Dove) and starred in The BIG Secret Live—I am Shakespeare—Webcam Daytime Chatroom Show (A comedy of Shakespearean identity crisis) which toured England in 2007.

Personal life[edit]

In 1992 he married Claire van Kampen whom he met while working at the National Theatre.[2] He has a sister named Susannah, an opera singer and author, and a brother, Jonathan, who works as a sommelier at Chez Panisse.[3] His stepdaughter is actress Juliet Rylance, who is married to actor Christian Camargo. His younger stepdaughter, filmmaker Nataasha Van Kampen, died in July 2012 at the age of twenty-eight, as a result of which Rylance withdrew from his planned participation in the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony.[4]

Mark Rylance has been a supporter of the indigenous rights organisation Survival International for many years.[5] He is the creator and director of "We Are One, a celebration of tribal peoples", a fundraising to take place at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue on Sunday 18 April 2010. The evening was a performance of tribal prose and poetry from some of the UK and Hollywood’s leading actors and musicians. About the event he has said: ”As a child, I was enriched and inspired by the lives and stories of the world's tribal peoples. As an adult, I have also been inspired by the ceaseless work of the organisation Survival International, and their movement to protect these tribes – from the rainforest of the Amazon to the icy reaches of the Arctic...To celebrate 40 years of Survival's work and enjoy the beauty of the spoken word from such rich oral cultures, I am gathering my friends from the theatre on the set of Jerusalem for a wonderful spring afternoon of eloquent recitals and stunning images from 'We are One’."

He is a patron of Peace Direct that believes that local people have the power to find their own solutions to conflict, and provides support. Rylance performed the life and words of Henri—an extraordinarily brave and charismatic man living in war-torn eastern Congo. The lecture was given at Pasos, Peace Museum, in New York in May 2011.

He is also patron of The Outside Edge Theatre Company. Edge works from the perspective of creating theatre and drama with people affected by substance misuse. It provides theatre interventions in drug and alcohol treatment and general community facilities throughout London and the UK as well as producing professional public theatre productions that take place in theatres, studio theatres and art centres. Rylance is "a great admirer of the company's work" believing it to be "proper initiatory old style theatre".

Mark Rylance became a patron of LIFT (London International Festival of Theatre) in 2013. He said about the festival: "I feel LIFT has done more to influence the growth and adventure of English Theatre than any other organisation we have.".[6]



YearPeriodTheatrical PerformanceTheatrical CharacterTheatre of PerformanceAccolades
1981Desperado CornerCitizens' Theatre, Glasgow
1982The TempestAriel(Performing with the RSC)
Romeo and JulietRomeo
1993Henry VHenry VTFANA, New York
Much Ado About NothingBenedickQueens TheatreWon the Olivier Award for Best Actor
1994As You Like ItTouchstoneTFANA, New York
True WestLee/AustinDonmar Warehouse
1995MacbethMacbethGreenwich Theatre
2000Live x 3HenryRoyal National Theatre
2007Boeing BoeingRobertComedy TheatreNominated for the Olivier Award in 2008 for Best Actor
I am ShakespeareFrankUK tour
2008Peer GyntPeer GyntGuthrie Theater, Minneapolis
Boeing BoeingRobertLongacre Theatre, NYCWon 2008 Tony Award, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
2009Jul-AugJerusalem by Jez ButterworthJohnny ByronRoyal Court TheatreWon 2009 Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Actor
Oct-DecEndgame by Samuel BeckettHammDuchess Theatre
2010Jan-AprJerusalem by Jez ButterworthJohnny ByronApollo TheatreWon the Olivier Award for Best Actor
Jun-AugLa Bete by David HirsonValereComedy TheatreNominated for the Olivier Award in 2011 for Best Actor
Sept-FebMusic Box Theatre, Broadway-
Apr-AugJerusalem by Jez ButterworthJohnny ByronMusic Box Theatre, BroadwayWon 2011 Tony Award, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
Oct-JanApollo Theatre
2012Nov-Feb 2013alternating in

Richard III and Twelfth Night, both by William Shakespeare

Richard III / OliviaApollo Theatre

Nice Fish by Mark Rylance and Louis Jenkins

RonGuthrie Theater
2013Oct-Feb 2014alternating in

Richard III and Twelfth Night, both by William Shakespeare

Richard III / OliviaBelasco Theatre, Broadway

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre[edit]

Along with Rylance's stage performances, he has had many appearances at the recently recreated Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in Southwark, London on the South Bank of the River Thames. Noted for being one of the finest Shakespearean actors of recent times; his performances at Shakespeare's Globe are noted for being amongst his finest works.

YearPerformanceTheatrical RoleAccolades / Notes
1996The Two Gentlemen of VeronaProteus
1997A Chaste Maid in CheapsideMr Allwit
Henry VHenry V
1998The Merchant of VeniceBassanio
The Honest WhoreHippolito
1999Antony and CleopatraCleopatra
2001CymbelineCloten(toured to New York in March 2002)
2002The Golden Ass (Apuleius' ancient novel adapted by Peter Oswald)Lucius
Twelfth NightOliviaWon the Olivier critics award, (toured to US cities in autumn of 2003: LA, Chicago etc.)
2003Richard IIRichard II(also broadcast on BBC Four)
2004Measure for MeasureDuke Vincentio(also TV broadcast on BBC Four and toured to US cities in autumn 2005)
2005The TempestProspero / Stephano / Sebastian / Alonso
The StormDaemones / Labrax / The Weather ("you can call me Clement")
2012Richard IIIRichard III
Twelfth NightOlivia


Film & television[edit]

1985The McGuffinGavin
Wallenberg: A Hero's StoryNikki FodorTelevision role
1987Hearts of FireFizz
1991The Grass Arena (1991)John HealyWon the BBC Radio Times Award for Best Newcomer
Prospero's BooksFerdinand
1993Love Lies BleedingConnTelevision role
1995LovingCharlie RaunceTelevision role
Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream People Call Human LifeJakob von Gunten
Angels & InsectsWilliam Adamson
HamletHamletTelevision role
1997Henry VKing Henry VTelevision role
2000William ShakespeareArtistic Director, Shakespeare's Globe
Changing StagesHimselfTelevision series
2003LeonardoLeonardo da VinciTelevision role
Richard IIRichard IITelevision role
Celebrity Naked AmbitionHimselfTelevision role
2004BreakfastHimselfTelevision role (19 April)
2005The Government InspectorDr. David KellyTelevision role; for which he won a BAFTA
2008The Other Boleyn GirlThomas Boleyn
AnonymousCondell (Shakespearean actor)
2013Days and NightsPost-production
2015Wolf HallThomas CromwellTelevision role



  1. ^ "Coalition aims to expose Shakespeare". yahoo! News. 8 September 2007. Retrieved 27 January 2009. [dead link]
  2. ^ General Register Office. England & Wales, Marriage Index: 1984–2005 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2007.
  3. ^ Cooke, Rachel (2013-6-30). "Mark Rylance: You Have To Move Into The Chaos". The Guardian (Kings Place, London, United Kingdom: Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 2013-7-1. 
  4. ^ Richard Anthony Baker (August 1, 2012). "Nataasha van Kampen". The Stage / Features / Obituaries /. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ LIFT website "Olivier and Tony Winner Mark Rylance announced as LIFT Patron", May 23, 2013.

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