Shakespeare's Birthday Eve

Just a sad reminder that with Shakespeare Day coming on a weekend this year, not to mention the Easter holiday weekend, I will be away from the computer and busy with family obligations and thus have no celebrations planned. I am relying on all of you, my dedicated Geeks, to carry the torch and spread the good words. If you get a chance, please send me links and stories and I’ll try to post a recap when I can. I almost certainly can’t send anybody any traffic during the big day, but it’d be nice to have a summary of all the good stuff that went on while I was off collecting colored eggs.
Happy Shakespeare’s Day Eve, Everyone!

6 thoughts on “Shakespeare's Birthday Eve

  1. Hi!

    I thought you and your followers might be interested in this:

    READ magazine (a Weekly Reader periodical) is performing William Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" LIVE on Facebook next week!

    Not only is this a great way to get kids jazzed about Shakespeare, but we also have a very important anti-cyberbullying message built in.

    Everything is happening in real time via status updates, photo posts, and videos. Audience participation is encouraged, too. Anyone who "likes" all the characters can speak to them as the play unfolds and from time to time, they will talk back.

    At the link mentioned above, anyone can learn more about the play, "like" all of the characters, and get extensive teacher resources about Shakespeare and cyberbullying (a serious theme we are exploring in this first-ever social media theater presentation).

    Thanks so much for spreading the word!

    All the best,
    Bryon Cahill
    Senior Editor, READ magazine
    Weekly Reader

  2. Doug,

    I appreciate your interest in the project and you raise several valid points. What I should mention, first off, is that this is a Weekly Reader production. Our target audience is middle and high school students and teachers. Being that we are an educational company, our goal is to bring Shakespeare into the classroom in new and exciting ways. One of our goals is to reach out to the student who yawns anytime he hears the Bard’s name so that he may think, “Wow! This is so cool! Maybe there’s more to this Shakespeare guy than I thought!” Kids are so plugged in these days, we believe Facebook is an innovative way to reach and teach them.

    We do say that this is “a modern adaptation” and we by no means expect it to be a substitute for Shakespeare’s classic, but rather, a teaching tool. We’re not saying that our Facebook dialogue will be of comparable poetic caliber as Shakespearean prose. But if students discover that Shakespeare is exciting and relevant, surely they will be more motivated to tackle his gorgeous Elizabethan verse in the future.

    About the anti-cyberbullying message: Yes, Don John is a terrible bully in that he spreads lies about Hero and the poor girl is shamed and dishonored. Don John isn't the only aggressor in the play, though. There are many levels of what people today are calling "bullying," including the initially contentious relationship between Beatrice and Benedick. Our adaptation is attempting to put the idea of cyberbullies into context and show that people who disagree can end up getting along. We have partnered with The Ophelia Project, a non-profit dedicated to creating safe social climates both online and off. They will be commenting throughout the play on all social aggressions the characters face in an effort to start a conversation with kids about how to practice good web citizenship.

    And yes, I suppose “first-ever” is overstating it a tad. Perhaps we should have said “first-ever on Facebook.” I am familiar with Such Tweet Sorrow and, like you, thought there were aspects of it that didn't quite hit the mark. But that was an experiment and they inevitably learned from their experience. For us, our Much Ado is an experiment as well. We are learning as we go, too.

    I'm referring your blog to my colleague who wrote our adaptation. He might comment later with some additional thoughts. Thanks for being so interested!


  3. And I apologize for calling you Doug, Duane. Guess I have our character of "Doug Berry" on the brain.

    – B

  4. Hi Bryon!

    Thanks for writing. Don't get me wrong, we're all for increasing people's exposure to Shakespeare at every opportunity. I think, however, and perhaps I speak only for myself, that we're somewhat purist in what exactly it should mean when somebody says "a performance of Much Ado About Nothing." Leaving aside the meaning of "performance" in a medium where all you're doing is typing, how much of the text are you actually using? If the answer is not "pretty much all of it", then I'd suggest from what I've seen that "A story inspired by Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing" might be more accurate. After all, West Side Story did just fine and it never claimed to be a performance of Romeo and Juliet.

    While I've got you here, if I still do that is, can I ask a few questions?

    1) What exactly does it mean to "build in" a cyber-bullying message? Who is the bully – Don John? When you say building in a message do you mean "emphasizing a message that you feel Shakespeare already put there", or did you add your own original content?

    2) Surely you're familiar with Royal Shakespeare Company's "Such Tweet Sorrow" last year where they performed a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet? How do you feel that one differs, in that you are billing your production as a "first ever social media theater presentation"? On Facebook, perhaps. But I don't think that, as written, this is an accurate claim for you to make.

    Thanks for writing. I and my readers I'm sure look forward to your response.

    – Duane

  5. Thanks for the reply, Bryon (no worries on the name confusion). I appreciate your mission and wish you luck with it.

    I will also point you to this story :

    From last year where I took my kids to see a production – an actual text production – of Much Ado, performed by high school kids. I took my 8 and 6yr old children. They did fine.

    So my only suggestion would be not to shy too far from the original material. Most kids who are going to eye-roll and claim to hate it are probably doing so pre-emptively and have never actually seen the play. With the appropriate amount of prep work to understand the story, the original text becomes far more interesting.

    Break a leg!

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