Three-time Tony winner and Oscar winner Mark Rylance has resigned as an associate artist from the Royal Shakespeare Company in the U.K., according to an essay penned by the actor and published in The Guardian. Rylance, who joined RSC over three decades ago, is cutting ties with the company over its partnership with oil company BP.
Rylance first began protesting BP's partnership with RSC in 2012, when he and a number of others argued that the oil company's values were not aligned with those of Shakespeare or RSC's associated artists.
"Today I feel I must dissociate myself from the RSC, not because it is any less of a theatre company, but because of the company it keeps," writes Rylance.
The actor goes on to quote environmentalist Jonathon Porritt (who worked closely with senior leaders in BP), in saying that BP has downplayed and obscured the science of climate change since the 1980s, all the time using philanthropy to mask its continued disregard for and damage to the environment.
In his essay, Rylance points to the disconnect between RSC's partnership with BP and its commitment to a generation of young people via the arts. In the U.K., youth have been advocating for the climate crisis through school strikes since March this year.
The actor says that after protesting and questioning BP's partnership with RSC over the years, that it is time to resign—"to lend strength to the voices within the RSC who want to be progressive, and to encourage my fellow associates to express themselves, too."
BP sponsors RSC's £5 ticket scheme, a partnership which continues through 2022.