When I first spotted “Swingball Shakespeare” on the Reddit Shakespeare sub I thought it was just a one off idea some guys had.
But maybe it’s more than that? I found an article explaining the background of the idea, as well as the rules:
It got started when I realised you could change a lamp post into a public swingball, and then that you could make that into a rhythmic game about iambic pentameter, and we could get people to say the text in public, if they were playing swingball.
That’s Anton Hecht, creator of the game. Sorry, “community-based game and public art experience.” When I saw the Reddit video I thought it was more about the challenge of having memorized a particular sonnet and having to recall it. But as the article shows, the words and meter are actually written down and posted on the pole so you can read at the same time (which definitely implies that somebody has to start with some knowledge of the subject!). It’s more about saying it out loud, and we all know the importance of that. Every time somebody asks about memorizing Shakespeare the first bit of advice that comes up is, “Say it out loud.”
I have to admit I kind of love the idea of randomly walking down the street and hearing people reciting Shakespeare while playing a game. What was it Caliban told us? Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises, sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not. Who’s to say that doesn’t apply equally to just walking down the street and taking in the ambient sounds around you?
I’m kind of wondering if Mr. Hecht is googling for references and might stop by. I don’t know that I’ve seen swingball very much in the US and I’m wondering if it’s primarily a European thing? Then again a game where you throw a beanbag at a slanted piece of wood with a hole in it (“cornhole”) is insanely popular here, so what do I know about what games people are playing and why?
So if anybody’s reading this anywhere in the world and saying to themselves, “I was wondering how we could breathe new life into our swingball set,” here’s your chance! Take it on the road. As the creator says, make it a public art experience. Don’t keep the Shakespeare in your back yard, share it with the world.