Shakespeare and Social Media

Next week, READ Magazine, in conjunction with The Ophelia Project, will stage the world’s first Facebooked Shakespeare play, will be presented. This won’t be the first time that Shakespeare has been presented via social media, though.

England’s Royal Shakespeare Company presented Such Tweet Sorrow in Spring 2010, which was a Twittered adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Presented in real time by a cast of six RSC actors and led by RSC Director Roxana Silbert, the project was designed with the Multimedia Production firm Mudlark. Rather than use the traditional Shakespearean dialogue, a new script was written to fit the modern day setting that they built for the characters. Though centered around Twitter, the production utilized YouTube videos, Spotify playlists and even XBox gamertags. Some of the characters even interacted with people who engaged them in conversation on Twitter. The purpose of the project was to enable the company to reach out to a generation of young people who have grown up using technology intuitively as part of their everyday lives. (Mudlark) Some characters had upwards of 4,000 followers and there were approximately 500 lists created by Twitter users to track the production. The project ended to mixed (but mostly negative) reviews with most recognizing the immersive quality of the medium, but criticizing the choice to update the dialogue.

ShakesandSMREAD Magazine, a publication of Weekly Reader, is targeting middle and high school teachers and students with their adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. The brave soldiers of Shakespeare’s work become high school football stars and the production will address the topic of cyber-bullying in the climactic discovery in the play (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you). Weekly Reader has provided numerous resources to teachers regarding the production and the topic of cyber-bullying to allow them to use this as a teachable exercise in their classes. Each character has a Facebook Page and starting yesterday, characters began interacting and laying out some backstory before the three day, real-time production begins next Tuesday at 4pm. For schools where Facebook is blocked, they have set up a Tumblr, which will be posting screenshots of the important interactions.

I might be biased, given my love for all things Shakespeare (and my favorite play being Much Ado), but I’m really excited to see organizations using Social Media to generate an interest in the classics both in performance and academic settings. I’ll definitely be following READ’s production (I have a Facebook List already set up so that I can see the feeds all together).

What do you think about bringing together Shakespeare and Social Media? Is it a good idea? Blasphemy to the Bard? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image via READ Magazine.

Originally Posted at Visual Alliance Media: