As 2017 gets going, we’ve just made Shakespeare play-reading a whole lot easier. This came about from a test we ran with home-schoolers in the summer of 2016. We learnt a lot from that and those learnings are embedded in what we’ve done.
We think our new play-reading method will be attractive to young and old: as a fun introduction to Shakespeare for the young being educated at home, at school or at university; and to older people who have, perhaps for the first time in their busy lives, the time to explore what Shakespeare means to them. So what have we done?
We now have half of the First Folio plays available for young and old to play-read on the Internet (you can find them at Players-Shakespeare.com – click on a play title to see the play), and have embarked on a project to make all the plays available, not only on the Internet, but also on free e-reader software on e-readers incuding:
- Apple iPads, iPhones, and MacIntoshes running iBooks
- Android phones and tablets running Google Play Books
- Amazon Kindle Fires using their AZW3 ebook reader
- Windows laptops using Icecream e-reader, or Calibre, or Sigil.
- You can even print a copy of the script on good old paper
A group of people can get together and playread a play using a mix of Web Browsers; e-book readers; and paper scripts. You can start today by trying this out on our new “Play of the Month”, launched today – All’s Well That End’s Well. When you’ve finished with that, have a look at The Merry Wives of Windsor, and before the end of January, Hamlet will be available, and from then on, we hope at least one play a month will be made available for downloading.
The plays can be playread by different sized groups:
- A small group of 2 – 5 people can playread a play ‘round-robin’, each speech being read by a different player in turn.
- A group of 10 – 12 players can playread the play, with each player having a principal role to play, and a few of the minor characters as well. Each speech they should speak is colour-coded to highlight which character they’re playing. The size of player parts may vary considerable with some players (e.g. Hamlet) having a lot to do and others (e.g. 2nd Clown) having far less to do.
- An experienced group of 6 – 8 players can playread the play, with each player having one or more principal roles to play, and a number of minor roles. Player parts are more equal in size, and most players will be pretty busy throughout the play-reading. Players need to find different voices for different characters (i.e. do some simple acting) so the group knows which character they’re playing.
- A larger group (perhaps 16 – 25 players depending on the play) can use the original Elizabethan / Jacobean casting. This may be of interest to school classes or groups interested in exploring the original Shakespearean practice. Part sizes can be very different, varying from the principal parts (very large) to the minor characters who perhaps had 1 or 2 (or no) lines.
The plays can be read in a number of different ways:
- In ‘round-robin’ fashion, each player speaking a speech in turn. This is useful when there are too few players (perhaps 2 – 5) to allocate parts via a cast list.
- As ‘Highlit Text’ when each player is allocated different character roles to play by means of a cast list. Each player sees the whole play, but the speeches of the player’s characters are colour-coded so the player knows to speak them, and which character they are.
- As ‘Parts and Cues’ (the format in which Elizabethan actors received the parts they had to play) where only the speeches the player has to say are shown, plus the last three words of the previous speech to act as a ‘cue’ plus all the stage directions. A player reading in this format is kept on their toes, listening out for their next cue.
Each play will have a standardised Index, displayed to the right of the script on tablets and laptops, and after the script on phones. This index provides more than just the script. It includes:
- An Introduction to the Play
- A list of the speaking characters in the Play
- The script
- A ‘round-robin’ script for play-reading witih 2 – 5 players
- Cast Lists (usually for around 6 – 12 playreaders, + the cast list of the original production)
- Articles and Reviews relating to the Play
- Access to productions of the play on DVD or streaming
This index helps you to reach a deep understanding of the play, by reading it together with some friends; reading about it; and watching productions of it.
Make your New Year even happier! Get started with play-reading:
- You can download and read All’s Well That Ends Well now
- You can download and read The Merry Wives of Windsor now
- Keep a look out for Hamlet, coming soon.