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Players-Shakespeare.com’s Newsletter No 2

In this issue:

How you are using Players-Shakespeare.com
Launch of ‘Support for Playreading’ Closed FB Group

Technology Update: Our plays on your own e-book readers 

Players-Shakespeare.com content in ’17 – ’18
Virtual play-reading across the Net

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How you are using Players-Shakespeare.com

As we get closer to the start of the play-reading season, in September,  there’s more and more activity from you on the web-site. Some of the things we’ve found particularly exciting are outlined below.

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We’re very pleased that two organisations have let us know that they’re exploring setting up a Shakespeare play-reading group using our edition of the plays:

 

A college in California is actively exploring setting up such a playreading group. Such an initiative takes some time to organise, so we’re not holding our breath.

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A community organisation in Ontario, Canada, is going through a similar process. It may take some time, but we’re very hopeful that by the end of the year they’ll be up and running. We’re particularly keen on this because our early experience of play-reading and Shakespeare productions was with a community theatre group in the Scottish Borders, and we know how well this can contribute to a community.

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We’ve offered both those organisations  whatever help we can to help them establish their play-reading groups and that applies to any others who want to establish a Shakespeare play-reading group using our edition. As a start to that, you’ll see below that we’ve established  a ‘Support for Playreading’ FB closed user group to help playreading group organisers, and allow them to help eachother. If you wamt to join that group, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/731768703694970/ and request to join the group.

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We launched that support page on the 11th August, and at the time of writing it has 27 members. It is already proving to be highly inter-active with plenty of comments by members on the questions and issues raised by different members.

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We suspect that there are more of you thinking of starting a Shakespeare play-reading group. Traffic on the site is also growing.  July traffic has nearly doubled compared with April, and their are a growing number of  what Google Analytics call ‘Really Engaged Users’. Most encouragingly, you are reading our post less and Shakspeare’s texts more. It’s not that we don’t want you to read our posts, but we really want you to read Shakespeare’s plays.

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Some of the traffic is quite curious. For example last week (6th – 12th August), 16% of our traffic was reading various scenes from Romeo and Juliet. Why the interest in Romeo and Juliet? It’s a great play of course, and attractive to the young, but we haven’t been talking about it. We’ve been talking about Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice. Even more interestingly, most of this traffic happened on one day – 11th August – when around 35% of the traffic was for Romeo and Juliet. And most of that traffic came from a few US towns: Charlottesville, Galax; Lexington; Mount Airy; New York.  What is going on? Of course it could just be random variation, but I suspect not. If anyone knows, perhaps they could let us know. It’s not just curiosity on our part – we’d like to be able to help – if help is needed. Anyway, we’re really pleased that people are using our edition. We hope you will, to.

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Launch of ‘Support for Playreading’ Closed FB Group

One of the things we’ve learned over the past three months is that there is huge interest in the idea of play-reading groups among people who want to playread, but there aren’t so many people who want to run a playreading group. We think there’s a demand there that is not being met, and we’re sure that there are people out there (drama teachers; community theatre directors; U3A organisers) who could take on the role of playgroup organiser, but perhaps feel a bit daunted at how to go about organising such a group.

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To help them, we’ve launched a ‘Support for Playreading’ Closed FB Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/731768703694970/). The idea is that it is a place where we will publish material which helps people organise a playreading group, but more importantly, they can ask each other for help with some of the issues that they come up with relating to playreading.

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We’ve already published some of the more relevant posts around setting up a play-reading group, and we’re publishing a ‘Countdown to playreading in September‘ set of posts outline what you need to do. We started at “T – 10” and today we publish “T-6  Play some key scenes with friends“.

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Technology Update: Our plays on your own e-book readers 

You may remember that in Newsletter No 1 we talked about our plan to provide our edition on your local PC Network so that you don’t have to access the plays across the web, and can use better e-reader software (e.g. iBooks on Apple iPads and iPhones). This will be achieved by using Calibre, a programmable  ebook management system. We’ve run a proof and concept and checked out whether it works,, and it does. This is pretty exciting, as we think it makes a much better environment for organisations such as colleges and theatre to run a play-reading group.

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However, as we said in the last newsletter, we need to do some software development before it becomes available, so don’t hold your breath.

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There’s been one further development since that proof of concept. Here in Edinburgh, I’m fairly paranoid about the Internet and the possibility of attacks from the big bad world. Part of our protection against that is to run a Virtual Private Netowrk (VPN). We’ve now tested whether Calibre can distribute plays to laptops; tablets; and smartphones attached to our Local Area Network, whilst still protecting us from the Internet by running a VPN at the same time.

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We’re pleased to say it works. This means that you can maintain your protection from the Internet whilst using Calibre to support your play-reading groupl.

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We have an internal meeting to discuss the consequences of this and scope out the technical work to make this available this week. More on this topic soon.

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Players-Shakespeare.com content in ’17 – ’18

We’ve been heavily focused on getting as many plays rolled out in our MFFEV5 format (which lets you playread them online and on ebooks), and haven’t had the bandwidth to produce the other content you’ve been used to. With the increased interest in the web-site, we’re planning to increase our content this season.

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Reviews of Shakespeare productions you can watch at home:

A lot of you (particularly those in the USA) like to watch Shakespeare productions at home on your TV, PC, tablet, or smartphone,  by streaming them across the Internet, or by playing a DVD. We’ve produced a large number of reviews of such shows in the past. You can see them at: Great Shows to watch at home. Of particular interest to many of you are productions at The Globe, the London theatre which is a replica of the theatre in which many of Shakespeare’s productions were first produced. We review their shows which you can stream or purchase a DVD and you’ll find them at: Globe Player Help page.

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From September ’17 we plan to add two reviews a month to keep our review section up to date. We hope you find it as useful as it has proved to be in the past.

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Eliza Langland content:

Eliza has written a couple of Playreading reports which  have gone down very well with our readers. If you haven’t read them yet you can find them at: Thou art alive and   Professional Actors’ playreading session (May 11th 2017) .

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Because she’s proven to be such a popular writer, we’ve asked her very nicely if she would be willing to produce more posts on a regular basis. She has very kindly agreed, and we plan that should start in September.

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These are the plans, but as a famous Scottish bard has said ‘The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley.’ so this is another opportunity not to hold your breath.

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Virtual play-reading across the Net

We’re trying something else new this week. For some time we’ve thought we could run ‘Virtual playreadings’ across the Net, using Skype for voice and Players-Shakespeare.com for the text.

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Internally, here in Edinburgh we’ve tested this out and it worked, so now we’re testing it across the Atlantic. We’ve got two play-readers here in Edinburgh, one in the Cayman Islands, and one in New York. On Thursday 17th August, we plan to run a virtual play-reading with these four players using Skype. I suspect we may spend more time playing with the technology than we do play-reading, and if we’can’t get it to work we’ll try other technology. We’ll let you know how it goes.

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I’m not sure there’s a huge market for cross-continental play-readings, but it will be fun to try it out.

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.Let’s Play!!!!.
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Richard Forsyth
‘The Director’
Players-Shakespeare.com

To find out what Players-Shakespeare.com is all about, check out What we do.
If you want to know how our Shakespeare edition is developing,  ‘like’ our Facebook page, and you’ll get more detailed updates on Facebook on what’s happening.

2 Responses to "Players-Shakespeare.com’s Newsletter No 2"

  • Meredith Stephens
    August 15, 2017 - 12:39 pm Reply

    Thanks so much for making your site available. I am a high school English teacher, and I help run a small theatre company in Greensboro, North Carolina. I can tell you that I have been accessing your site to read Romeo and Juliet this month, because I am about to hold auditions for an upcoming production. Also, I know that a theatre in Mt. Airy (about 90 minutes away) is also going to produce Romeo and Juliet this fall, so they may also be reading on the site. I plan to use your website to do classroom readings of Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Hamlet this school year. I’m also hoping to start a community reading group – I’ll join the new FB group to find out more. Thanks again! ~Meredith DiPaolo Stephens, Greensboro, North Carolina

  • Richard Forsyth
    August 17, 2017 - 9:38 am Reply

    Hi Meredith,

    That’s wonderful news!!! We’re really pleased that you’re using our script for rehearsing R&J., and then playreading of Macbeth and Hamlet.

    Good luck with your community reading group.

    Maybe there’s a few schools in the USA that are reading Romeo and Juliet this year and that’s why it’s getting quite a few hits. Is there anyway of letting them all know about the Support for Playreading Group?

    By the way it’s at https://www.facebook.com/groups/731768703694970/?ref=bookmarks

    Thanks for letting me know, and if you need any help with using the site, just let me know. You can message me on FB messenger, or even better, post on the Support for Playreading FB page where you’ll get help from me, and your peers. And as well as urgent problems, if you can give us more general feedback on how the site works in practice, please post it on the same FB page.

    Have fun, and let’s Play!!!

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