Ryan J-W Smith, BA Theatre Studies, MA Law (Dist)
Artistic Director / Playwright / Director / Producer / Actor
Receiving a full scholarship from the European Union, Smith read Theatre Studies at Trinity College, Dublin. During his studies he was also awarded a scholarship from Trinity as the highest achieving student in his year. After Trinity, Smith founded Rogue Shakespeare® in 2001 with the debut production of his first verse play, Sweet Love Adieu, in the ruins of the Roman Amphitheatre in St. Albans, England. The production was a roaring success with the leading local paper confirming that “there IS culture – if you want it” – St. Albans Observer.
Since then Smith’s verse plays have received innumerable 4 and 5-star reviews, nominations and awards via stand-out productions across the world. Highlights include: 2005 Smith received an Arts Council England financial award to write his critically-acclaimed 3rd verse play, Love Labours Won, which stunned critics and audiences alike at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2006 and 2007: ★★★★★ “the best Shakespearean comedy not written by Shakespeare – this is unmissable!” – Three Weeks; ★★★★★ “go see it and watch great theatre in action” – UK Theatre Network; ★★★★★ “a damned good romp” – British Theatre Guide; ★★★★ “still excellent – Smith has done an astonishing job” – Broadway Baby; ★★★★ “Smith – master of the iambic pentameter, cleverly matches Shakespeare at his own game” – Hairline; ★★★★ “Smith is, to my point of view, far better than anything that came out of Stratord” – One4Review; ★★★★ “Smith is one to watch” – Fringe Review.
In 2008 he was nominated for the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award for his 4th verse play – the politically daring one-man show, New World Order, which premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe receiving nothing but glowing 4 and 5 star reviews, and subsequently toured Australia: ★★★★★ “FLAWLESS” – Edinburgh Guide; ★★★★★ “hard-hitting one-man epic” – One4Review; ★★★★ “performed immaculately – it should be missed by no-one” – Fringe Review; ★★★★ “Smith has written an incredible play here” – Three Weeks; ★★★★ “sharply scripted” – British Theatre Guide; ★★★★ “STUNNING” – The List Magazine.
In 2012, Smith’s fifth short film, The Poet Cursed, written in Smith’s unique rhyming verse, was selected for the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival, and was also an official selection at 7 other international film festivals
In 2015, Ryan directed and performed in the critically-acclaimed US premiere of his Love Labours Won. This production won the highly coveted International Award and an Encore! Producers Award at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. In 2016, he repeated and expanded upon this success by concurrently playing lead roles/directing/producing both the world premieres of his critically-acclaimed 5th verse play, MacDeth! – which won both the International Award and an Encore! Producers Award and was also nominated for the Comedy Award at the Hollywood Fringe Festival – as well as a critically-acclaimed rewrite of his 1st verse play, Sweet Love Adieu (version II), which was also nominated for the Hollywood Fringe International Award (losing to Smith’s ‘MacDeth!‘).
In 2019, Smith directed his latest (7th) verse play, the one-woman tragicomic history, Pretty Witty, Nell®, at the Hollywood Fringe – it was nominated for the International Award and highly praised by critics and audiences alike – with Broadway World calling it “perfect – a stand-out solo show”.
In 2023, Smith revived Pretty Witty, Nell® with a critically-acclaimed run in London starring newcomer, Hannah Attfield, which garnered unanimous praise from critics: ★★★★★ “Smith’s writing is exquisite. Attfield was phenomenal… Simply put this play is a work of genius. Genius writing, genius direction and genius acting” – Pink Prince Theatre ★★★★ “Reenacted intricately and with flair, by this gentle wench, who knows the affair” – First Night Magazine ★★★★ “This is impressive… there is a lot of pleasure to be had in this kind of pastiche” – London Pub Theatres Magazine “Engrossing from start to finish… worthy of tremendous praise… I can only marvel at Smith’s craft” – Mark Aspen Reviews. “Hannah Attfield perfectly plays our Nell. It’s modern, enjoyable Shakespeare; with comedy and tragedy – the lot!” – The Family Stage. “Pretty Witty Nell is a truly memorable production, a triumph.” – Twickenham and Richmond Tribune.
Alongside his verse plays, Ryan has written over 2,000 Shakespearean sonnets – the first 500 of which were published in 2012 in the critically-acclaimed volume, ‘500 Shakespearean Sonnets‘ – “A landmark in literature” – Watkins Magazine; “A tour de force” – Herald Scotland; “deserves to sit along side your Poes, Plaths, and T.S. Elliots” – Mass Movement Magazine; “Masters of the verse – Smith pays homage to the Bard with the must-read collection of his own modern verse” – London Planner; “Shakespeare’s record of 154 sonnets in his lifetime was breathtaking. But what Ryan J-W Smith has achieved is simply awe-inspiring.” – Book A Poet.
A festival-winning filmmaker, Ryan has written, directed and produced 5 short films and 2 (forthcoming) feature documentaries. Collectively, Smith’s films have received 25 international film festival wins, nominations or selections.
Smith is also a composer and recording artist; his first two albums were originally released with Universal Music.
As well as holding a batchelor’s degree in Theatre Studies, Smith graduated from law school with a master’s degree in Law, awarded with distinction. Ryan has been admitted as a member of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn – a professional association for lawyers. Lincoln’s Inn is the largest inn of the famous Four Inns of Court in London.
Ryan is a long-time practitioner of the Buddhist arts of Mindfulness Meditation and Wing Chun Kung-Fu. Smith considers Buddhist philosophy to be the foundation of all of his achievements and skills.
Smith also the is Founder and Senior Agent of the world renowned British Talent Agency®.
Bradley R. Bernstein
Olivier Award-winning and Tony-nominated West End and Broadway producer, Bradley R. Bernstein began producing with Rogue Shakespeare® in 2015 with Smith’s award-winning production of his Love Labours Won. Bernstein subsequently co-produced the world premiere productions of Smith’s award-winning and award-nominated comedies, MacDeth! and Sweet Love Adieu (version II), in 2016; as well as the critically-acclaimed world premiere of Smith’s one-woman tragicomic history play, Pretty, Witty Nell®, in 2019.
Continuing this successful, Bradley was delighted to co-produce the critically-acclaimed UK premiere of Pretty, Witty Nell® in London, July 2023, as well as the NYC premiere of Pretty, Witty Nell® at Theatre Row in September 2023.
Mr Bernstein’s extensive previous producing credits include: ‘Summer And Smoke’ starring Rosamund Pike (Apollo Theater, 2006); ‘Brand’ starring Ralph Fiennes (RSC 2003/ Theatre Royal Haymarket, 2003); ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ starring Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson (Theatre Royal Haymarket, 2002); An Inspector Calls’ directed by Stephen Daldry (The Playhouse Theatre, 2001); the Olivier Award-winning ‘Jitney’ by August Wilson (Royal National Theatre, 2001), and ‘Amadeus’ starring David Suchet and Michael Sheen, directed Sir Peter Hall (Broadway, 1999, – two Tony nominations/Best Revival and Best Leading Actor).
Actress - Pretty, Witty Nell®
Born and raised just outside of Eastbourne, Hannah’s passion for acting was fostered from a young age before pursuing her professional training at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. Her notable stage roles include Macduff in ‘Macbeth‘, Sorel in ‘Hayfever‘ and most recently Mercutio in ‘Romeo & Juliet‘.
Pretty, Witty Nell® was Hannah’s London stage debut. She is beyond delighted to be welcomed into Rogue Shakespeare®.
More announced soon…
Costumer (London) - Pretty, Witty Nell®
In 2023 we welcome the incredible costumer, Sybilla Hyde, into the grateful arms of Rogue Shakespeare®.