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MFFEV5 – An exciting new resource for Shakespeare lovers

 We’ve been rather quiet for the last two or three months, because we’d promised to launch MFFEV5 in 4Q15. Well, it’s still 4Q15, and we’re very pleased to announce that we’re launching MFFEV5 today. It’s been rather more work than we anticipated, so we’ve all been working quite hard. I would like to congratulate the whole team for the efforts everyone has put in. Comparisons are odious, but exceptions can sometimes be made, (cliches worthy of Polonius) and in this case I’d like to congratulate Ben Jones on the huge effort he’s put in heading up the technical team, dealing with unreasonable user requests, and all the technical difficulties with unfailing calmness and good humour.

So today we’re launching MFFEV5. Well perhaps it’s not quite floating on the open sea yet, but it is definitely sliding down the slipway, some people still hanging off the side, finishing off the current version – and we expect there to be more developments over the coming months, years, and maybe decades.

What is MFFEV5  and why is it exciting for Shakespeare lovers?

MFFEV5 is an online, interactive, version of Shakespeare’s plays. Today we’re launching with five plays (Henry IV Part IKing Lear, Othello, The Tempest, and Twelfth Night).  We’ll be launching more plays (1 or 2 a month) over 2016 and 2017.

MFFEV5 can be used by: play-reading groups to read a Shakespeare play with 6 – 12 readers; production groups using Parts and Cues scripts to rehearse plays; script editors to generate a production script from the MFFEV5 script; by educators to let their students ‘play’ Shakespeare scenes or plays, as well as study them.

There are already plenty of online versions of Shakespeare’s plays, so what’s so exciting about MFFEV5? We think the following characteristics add up to a new experience of reading Shakespeare:

  • It’s derived from the First Folio, and in particular an OUP electronic version of the First Folio, which the OUP have kindly put into the public domain (under a Creative Commons licence). Our version is published under that same licence, which means that it is ‘owned’ by its users. We actively encourage those who use it to tell us how they would like it changed and how they want to use it (email us at mffev5@icloud.com).
  • It is configurable by you:
    • You can change the font and font-size to suit your eyes and the web-browser / technology you’re using to read with (PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone)
    • You can choose the character(s) you’re reading:
      • You can see the whole play
      • You can choose a single character you want to focus on
      • You can choose a set of characters from a play-reading casting to see
    • You can see the text in three different formats:
      • Standard text (like every other Shakespeare edition)
      • Highlit text (like many actors do, every speech of the character(s)  you’re playing is highlit in a colour ( a different colour for each character you’re playing)
      • Parts and Cues: As Shakespearean actors were given, only your lines are shown, together with the cues for your speeches, plus stage directions and stage direction cues.
  • We provide a number of play-reading castings for play-readings. These castings are usually for somewhere between 8 and 12 readers. Each reader gets at least one principal character to read, and the minor parts are distributed among the readers with a view to avoid, where possible, readers talking to themselves in different roles, and to even up part sizes.

What does the MFFEV5 look like?

 The best way to get an idea of what the MFFEV5 looks like is to look at the plays  we’ve published. The following links will open new pages to show those plays in MFFEV5 format:

  • Henry IV Part I (The character Henry IV is in Parts and Cues format in large text)
  • King Lear (In Highlit text for a reader playing Kent, Captain and Messenger – Player 6 of 9) –  in large text
  • Othello  (Desdemona’s first speeches in A1S3 in Parts and Cues format with medium text.
  • The Tempest (Stephano’s part in  A3S2 in Highlit Text format with small text)
  • Twelfth Night The full script (just to show we can do that) in large text.

On all of these plays, click on the A?S? buttons to see a different scene, or click on the cogwheel (top right-hand corner of the play window) to play with the configuration options.

Alternatively, you can use the Players-Shakespeare.com menu system:

  1. Go to www.players-shakespeare.com
  2. Hover on the Menu item “MFFEV5” (second menu item from the left)
  3. Click on the play you want to see.

 Whichever way you get to the play, you can configure any play by clicking on the cogwheel in the top right-hand corner of the play window, change the configuration as you like (feel free to play), and then click on the cogwheel again to close it.

Future Plans

This is only the start of our launch program. Very soon, we’ll post an overview which shows you how to tailor the plays to suit your personal needs, and that will be followed by practical examples of how you can use the MFFEV5.

2016 is the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare, and we have some activities planned around that:

  • In January, we’re running a ‘prepared reading’ of Twelfth Night on Sunday 17th January (not Twelfth Night, but close). We’ve allocated parts to ten different readers, and we’re each preparing our parts. (I’ve cast myself as Malvolio – a Scottish puritan – and am finding both Parts and Cues and Highlit text versions of his role useful in my preparation). We’ve published Twelfth Night  in MFFEV5 format, and very much hope that some of you will feel free to use our script for a reading round about the same date.
  • April 23rd is the actual anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and we’ve booked that date (a Saturday)  for another reading, probably Love’s Labour’s Lost which we haven’t published yet.
  • We don’t only have to do whole plays. We’ve been asked by book-reading groups if we could provide single scenes from plays so they could try out reading Shakespeare. Current plans are to prepare A2S2 from King Lear, where  his daughters are rejecti him, and he starts to go mad. This is a little gloomy, so we’re also preparing A1S5 from Twelfth Night, where a lot happens, and in particular, Viola woos Olivia for Orsino, and Olivia falls in love, but with Viola (disguised as Cesario).
    We also plan to expand on this idea, and prepare scenes for 2 or 3 players, for example

I hope that gives you an idea of what MFFEV5 does, and how it might help you with your love of Shakespeare. You’ll be hearing more from us over the next couple of weeks, so you’re fully MFFEV5-compliant in the run up to Christmas. In 2016 (the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death) we’ll be doing a lot more.

I hope you join us for the journey!

The Director,
Don’t forget – for feedback on the MFFEV5, email us at mffev5@icloud.com

See more about Parts and Cues on our Playreading Page.



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