Bored At Home? Talk To Shakespeare

So there’s a whole lot of Shakespeare going on during the pandemic. There’s so many “Zoom readings” there’s even a meme about it ๐Ÿ™‚ (The granddaddy of them all, of course, is Rob Myles’ The Show Must Go Online. If you haven’t watched one of their productions yet, seriously, do yourself the favor.)

But I’m here today to talk about an entirely different kind of Shakespeare project – Bard in the Yard:

William Shakespeare, aka “The Bard”, is stuck in London during the plague quarantine of 1605. Quite literally stuck.He urgently needs to write his next masterpiece, but his parchment remains desperately blank. If only he could speak to an audience again, and rekindle the fire of his Muse! What’s that? You have a yard in which he could perform his greatest hits and reignite the Bard-blockbuster machine, all while maintaining a suitably safe distance?

What that means is a 45 minute one-person show featuring “The Bard”, using you the audience as his inspiration for a new play (tentatively titled, “The Lamentable Comedy of King Leonardo, his Three Daughters and Their Dog.”)

Here’s a few reasons why I think this project has the potential to be something a little different from the rest:

  • It’s original content. From what I gather it’s something of a “greatest hits” walkthrough as it’s scaffolding, but other than that it’s an all new story about Shakespeare. Great place to start.
  • There’s 23 different actors playing Shakespeare. By that alone every show is going to be completely unique.
  • It’s all about the interactivity. This is not a sit back and watch show. Expect Shakespeare to be talking to you, and expecting you to answer. It’s made for Zoom. You literally pay for your tickets by screen. Thinking in very “Mulan on Disney+” American terms I wondered why you wouldn’t just pay your ticket price and then invite a dozen people over to hover around the screen. “No no, ” they corrected me, “That would defeat the purpose. Even if you’ve got a bunch of people in the house that want to watch, have them all fire up the show on their own screen. That’s what makes it an individual experience.” This is not an improv show where there’s a hundred people in the audience and every now and then an actor calls out for movie styles and you never get picked. You get your own virtual front row seat.

This is a show about the actors. Right now live theatre is having a tough time as an institution. But underneath that “macro” problem is the micro problem that there’s actors not getting paid. This show was developed to address that. That’s one of the reasons why there’s so many different one-person shows. That’s one of the reasons why you pay per screen. So yes, you’re going to have to pay for tickets (unlike the myriad of Zoom readings we know and love), but they’re very open about that – you pay for this show so money can go into actors’ pockets.

So this one’s more than a bit about motivation. If you want to see some original Shakespeare related content, great. If, however, you know and love people involved in live theatre and know the struggles they’re having, and have been wondering how you can help give back to them? Here’s an opportunity. If you’re only one person, take the opportunity to pay it forward by donating some screens (the base ticket price is for three screens and goes up from there). It’s not even a hand out or donation. Actors get to do their job and you get a show. It’s for a great great cause.

Bard in the Yard – Coming this November, straight to your living room.

How To Sell A First Folio

You may have heard by now that a First Folio recently sold at auction for $10 million. I saw at least one post that said, “If you’ve got that much money, how about donating a million dollars to 10 theatres?” I see the point.

I’ve got an idea for how to make money from a First Folio. Whenever something physically big needs to be sold, what do they do? A building or something. Do they say “Hey, anybody want this building? Million bucks.” No, they break it into pieces and sell those. I’m from Boston, and the “Cheers” bar recently went through this when it closed. Could you buy the whole bar? No. But you could buy the glasses. And the stools. And the signs. And so on. So now there’s hundreds of Cheers fans around the country who can point to a collector’s item and say “Like that stool? That’s from Cheers.”

So you see where I’m going with this. I still kind of feel like it’s sacrilege to even suggest it, but take a First Folio and sell it one page at a time. How much you think we could get? There’s only so many people in the world with $10 million. And then what do they do with it? Sometimes it just goes into a private collection, never to be seen again. Sometimes, best case, it goes on display somewhere so you have to travel to see it, if you’re lucky because it’s only on display sometimes.

But there’s plenty of people willing to drop a few thousand dollars on an important collector’s item. And then there’s hundreds of households all around the world with a framed piece of Shakespeare on their wall for people to admire and ask about and learn about.

I know it’s a silly idea, you don’t destroy a copy of a book when there’s only a few hundred copies of that book in existence. Besides, the math doesn’t work. At around 900 pages you’d still need to average over $10k per page to approach that $10 million mark.

Just daydreaming, I guess.

Attention Slackers

Show of hands, who knows what Slack is? As somebody whose day job requires that I live within its walls I just kind of took this question for granted, but literally everybody that’s taken part so far asked me, “What’s Slack?” So as we continue, I thought I’d start there. If you do know what Slack is, you can skip down a bit.

Slack is an online collaboration space. It’s not really in the “social media” bucket because it’s not public, companies and organizations create their own, invitation-only space. Other than that, though, it’s very much like social media. You ask questions, you answer questions, you post media, you share files.

Imagine Facebook, only everybody on it is talking about one subject (or works for one company). There’s channels so you can organize the conversation and decide which ones you want to join (or not). There’s persistence so you can scroll back in the conversation (and search!) in case you don’t want to monitor all the time (like Twitter requires). There’s emojis, there’s private notifications, there’s direct private messages. There’s multiple ways to access it – web, desktop app, mobile app.

You’d think I work for Slack at this point. I do not. But, like I said, I am so used to having it open all the time that I got to wondering whether I couldn’t put it to good use. See where this is going?

We have a Shakespeare Geek slack!

Right now there’s less than a dozen of us breaking it in, working the kinks out. Generally introducing ourselves and telling our “What’s Shakespeare mean to me?” stories. I asked for volunteers on Twitter a few times to get us started.

But many of you out there aren’t on Twitter. Maybe you found this like on Facebook, or on the mailing list. I want to make sure you’re invited to the party!

If any of this sounds interesting, request an invitation from me directly. You will need to provide your email address.

The Rules (What Few There Are)

  • The whole idea of this experiment is to have a giant Shakespeare-themed cocktail party. Pleasant, on topic conversation. This isn’t Reddit or Twitter, it’s a private party. No spamming, no disruptive nonsense, no authorship debates. I have to unfortunately reserve the right to revoke the access of anyone at any time, and hope never to use that right.
  • I have no idea how many responses I’ll get to this so I can’t promise to immediately respond to all of them. I will openly admit to being partial to those that are not entirely anonymous to me, so if we have any sort of existing relationship (have corresponded in the past, or if I know you by another social media name…) you’ll be higher on the list (so make sure to mention it). And if we don’t, introduce yourself! That’s what you do at a party, you start by saying hello to the host. ๐Ÿ™‚

If that sounds interesting, I look forward to hearing from you!

Thank You For The Education

A plague on neither of your houses!

Learn something new every day.

I’m out at the pharmacy wearing my “A plague on neither of your houses” mask, waiting in line, doing the social distancing thing.

I’m called next, he asks me the patient’s name, and I tell him as I’m approaching to my safe distance. He leans forward and squints. I think he’s misunderstood my mumble through the mask, so I repeat it.

A plague on neither of your houses!

“No,” he says, “I was trying to read your mask. A plague on neither of your houses. Huh. Hmmm. Date of birth?”

I tell him and he goes looking for the medicine. I wonder when I’ll have the opportunity to explain.

He brings back the medicine and, after ringing me up and while I’m doing the credit card thing, he seems to have figured it out. He says, “I like that. Kind of like, good will toward everybody? Wishing nobody gets sick?”

“It’s from Shakespeare,” I told him. He looks curious. “Romeo and Juliet? There’s a famous line that goes, A plague on both your houses. So, we’re in a pandemic, we’re wearing masks so nobody gets sick …?”

“Oh!” he says. “Ok, I see, very good. Thank you for the education.”

I realized at that moment that I’d always assumed “A plague on both your houses” was as recognizable as “To be or not to be”. Apparently not! Thank you, pharmacy man, for the education!

Achievement Unlocked! A Geeklet Story?

Ok, this is a fun one. Is it a geeklet story if the geeklets aren’t actually in it?

Ever since I’ve had Shakespeare Geek merchandise, I’ve jokingly said that “the goal” is to bump into a stranger wearing my merchandise. That’s when I’ll know I’ve made it. You see where this story is going.

My daughter’s off to college. Perusing Facebook one night I see a group for parents of students at that college, and send a request to join. It gets approved, followed by a message. Which I assume is just an automatic “Your request has been accepted” type of thing. Nope!

It says, “Out of curiosity, are you the maker of the To Yeet or Not To Yeet shirt on Amazon?”

“I am!” I reply, “Though I’m sure by now there are a number of knockoffs, but yes, that is definitely one of my designs.” The nature of Amazon is that brain dead “sellers” with no ideas of their own will just steal the originality of others. We deal with it, and we move on. It’s definitely not winning the game if you bump into somebody wearing a knock off of one of your shirts. That’s negative points.

“Yup it’s you!” she replied, posting an image of the shirt. Turns out her daughter’s in the college’s Shakespeare group. I concede that while I’d love that, I know my daughter’s a math/space geek and wouldn’t want her to feel forced to follow in my footsteps.

But, still! Maybe this doesn’t count as me randomly bumping into somebody with my merch. But my daughter might! Now I’ve got this whole vision in my head where this woman’s daughter has one of my shirts, and all the other people in her club are all, “Oh, whoa, where’d you get that? I must have it!” so there’s really dozens of people wandering around my daughter’s college wearing Shakespeare Geek merchandise, and one day she’s going to stroll out onto the quad and be surrounded :). I can’t wait for that phone call!

Hello to new friends!