Tech It Up A Notch

Ok, here’s a game I thought of while daydreaming about my iPad idea.

Take a scene from Shakespeare, and then seamlessly integrate some modern bit of technology.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Bottom has been given a donkey’s head, and his frightened coworkers have scattered, leaving him onstage alone.


Why do they run away? This is knavery of them to make me afeard.

His cellphone beeps the familar triple-tone, signifying a text message. He takes the phone out of his pocket.



“O Bottom, thou art changed! what do I see on thee? Snout.” What do you see? You see an asshead of your own, do you?

Another triple-tone, another message.


“Bless thee, Bottom! Bless thee! Thou art translated! Quince.” I see their knavery: this is to make an ass of me …

Get the idea? Instead of running back on stage to deliver one line and then exit, they keep their distance and text him. It is not “Shakespeare via text message” nor is it “rewrite Shakespeare in text-speak”. It’s just a way of saying, “How might this scene play out differently if everybody had had a cell phone?”

Constraints :

  1. “Integrate” implies changing some action or dialogue in some way to support the introduction of the technology. You can’t just have Macduff enter checking his voice mail and then put his phone away, unless he delivers a line or otherwise moves the scene along in some way associated with that action.
  2. You can alter or reassign text to support your context (such as by giving those lines to Bottom, above).
  3. Devices can provide feedback that might be necessary for staging, such as a GPS transmitter speaking its directions instead of requiring the character to read them.
  4. You cannot create dialogue of your own. So no examples of King Duncan reading Lady Macbeth’s Facebook page. The idea isn’t to create a new story, the idea is to see how technology can be used to present the story Shakespeare already gave us.

Let’s see how creative you can get.

8 thoughts on “Tech It Up A Notch

  1. Duane, have you read Michael Pennington's User's Guide to MND? After going through the play scene by scene, he writes about an outdoor production he directed, in modern Greek-type clothes, in which he actually gave Bottom a cell phone. It went off 3 times during the play (once just before the show started, as the warning to the audience).

  2. Actually, a middle school performed scenes from R&J at our festival a couple of weeks ago as "Macs Vs PCs" Kids fought with light sabre apps on smart phones, R&J texted each other their sonnet at the party, Juliet's iPad shut down when she killed herself. Parts of it were cute!

  3. "why would he give Bottom a cell phone?"

    As a running gag, such as the comic characters in this play often accumulate in produciton — Bottom being the kind of self-centered individual who might well let his phone go off (and answer it) at rude times.

    However! Pennington reports that when he came back to watch a performance (after a month abroad), he discovered that the cast had cut the cell phone completely, and he found that he agreed with them.

  4. From Titus Andronicus, IV.i:

    Sit down, sweet niece: brother, sit down by me.
    Apollo, Pallas, Jove, or Mercury,
    Inspire me, that I may this treason find!
    My lord, look here: look here,
    This iPhone 3G is plain; guide, if thou canst
    This after me, when I have writ my name
    Without the help of any hand at all.

    (He types his name with his stylus in his mouth)

    Cursed be that heart that forced us to this shift!
    Text thou good niece; and here display, at last,
    What God will have discover'd for revenge;
    Heaven guide thy stylus to print thy sorrows plain,
    That we may know the traitors and the truth!

    (She takes the stylus in her mouth, and texts)

    Titus Andronicus

    O, do ye read, my lord, what she hath texted? 'Stuprum. Chiron. Demetrius.'

  5. Jon I have not – why would he give Bottom a cell phone? How did they use it, other than as a prop / noisemaker?

    Ed – Love it! Took me a second to realize that "forced us to this shift" was not "to use shift", a joke on how hard it would be to make capital letters with the stylus in your mouth 🙂

  6. The love notes scene in Love's Labour's Lost. The poetry could be written as emails, and as each person comes in and the others hide, they see the previous person's open email.

  7. Richard III:


    Be patient, they are friends, Ratcliff and Lovel.

    Enter RATCLIFF and LOVEL, with a mobile phone. LOVEL shows RICHARD a photo (taken with the phone) of HASTINGS' head.


    Here is the head of that ignoble traitor,
    The dangerous and unsuspected Hastings.


    So dear I loved the man, that I must weep.

  8. Macbeth,

    …I have supped full of horrors, direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts, cannot once start me.

    (Grows impatient, pulls out phone and texts the following)

    Wherefore was that cry?

    (Phone buzzes. Macbeth reads the response out loud.)

    The Queen, my lord, is dead.

    (Macbeth stares for a second, then begins typing furiously)

    She should have died hereafter, then there would have been time for such a word…

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