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Players-Shakespeare.com’s Newsletter No 3

In this issue:

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Players-Shakespeare.com has more than 1,000 followers
More of you are trying out Play-reading
Support for Playreading and Production FB Group
Technology Updates:
–  Google Custom Search implemented on Players-Shakespeare.com
– Our plays on your own e-book readers
– Virtual play-reading across the Net

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Players-Shakespeare.com has more than 1,000 followers:

We’re very pleased that our FB page and web-site is growing fast. On Midsummer’s day we reached 500+ likes, and today (26th August – two months later) we’ve doubled to just over 1,000 followers (and if we include other ‘likes’ we’re now hust under 1,450).

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First, a big thank you to all our members Thank you for putting up with our, perhaps excessive, enthusiasm for Shakespeare, play-reading, and production! We hope you  stay with us for the journey!

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We wonder why there’s so much interest. Two things shave changed significantly in that time-period:

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  • The growth seems to have started with the launch of our campaign to get people reading Shakespeare’s plays in playreading groups. It seems that a lot of you want to start play-reading.  On average, we get 200 – 300 post likes in a week (significantly more than comparable Shakespeare web-sites), and most of our posts are about play-reading.There seems to be less interest in organizing  play-readings, so we’re doing our best to encourage drama teachers; community theatre groups; U3A organizers; to establish play-reading groups, and we’re doing our best to help them through posts and by the launch of our new ‘Support for Playreading and Production’ FB page (see below).
  • Our web-site seems to have been discovered by smartphone users.  The site is ‘responsive’ in design, so most pages re-shape to suit the technology that is being used as a browser. This means that most of the core functions of the site (reading a post; reading a play script) are accessible on smartphones.If you’re organising a play-reading group, you may find it easier and faster to browse the site on a laptop (or tablet in landscape mode). This lets you: browse a play-index whilst reading the script; use our “Let’s Play” items, or set-up your own; and use the site search (see below) to find the content you need.

Increasingly we’re seeing that playgroup organisers will use laptops / tablets in landscape mode; and play-readers can use smartphones; tablets in whatever format; and laptops.

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More of you are trying out Play-reading:

As we outlined in our last Newsletter, there seems to be some green shoots ‘across the pond’ in the USA and Canada, with different organisations exploring setting up play-reading groups in California, USA, and in Ontario, Canada.  The big growth, though has been in people actually trying out play-reading scenes along the lines of our suggestions in Coutdown to Playreading… T – 6 (play some key scenes with some friends).  In quite a few towns on the East of the US, this is happening now on a fairly regular basis, and comments on our web-site suggest that this is both for play-reading in schools, and rehearsals for theatrical productions. Romeo and Juliet seems particularly popular, though we’re also trying to get people to look at MacbethI wonder if Romeo and Juliet is on a school syllabus in the US this year?

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Now, it’s starting to happen on this side of the pond as well, with recent activity in Ireland, and Scotland. England can’t be far behind. After all, Shakespeare comes from there!

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Also, we recently published Countdown to Playreading… T – 3 (Read our play-reading reports) which is worth a look if you haven’t seen it yet. And today, as September is getting really close, we’ve published Countdown to Playreading… T – 2 (Remind the players to come to the play reading)

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Support for Playreading and Production FB Group

I guess that many of you are trying out the web-site play scripts to see whether they actually work. and we hope that you become pleased with what the web-site can do. If you’ve got problems, we want to help. Any queries or issues can be posted on our Support for Play-reading and Productions FB page  where I hope they will be answered by us, or by your peers who are also members of the group. Note that the Support page is a Closed FB page, so you have to request to join it, before you can post (though antybody can read it).

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Technology Updates:

There’s quite a lot going on with our technology:

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–  Google Custom Search implemented on Players-Shakespeare.com

We’ve implemented ‘Google Custom Search’ on our web-site.  This uses the power of the Google Search Engine to search our web-site and find the pages on ouw web-site of most interest to you. As is usual with Google seatch, the first four or five search entries returned are adverts from other sites, but it’s not too difficult to ignore them, and get down to the interesting entries. Click on one that interests you, and you’re taken to that page.

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You can find the search box on our Home page, and on most of the other pages:

  • On a laptop (or tablet in landscape mode) you’ll find the Search box on the right-hand side of the page, underneath the menu bar.
  • On a smartphone, you’ll find the Search box after the post you’re reading.

I’ve had many happy hours playing with the Seatch box, and being amazed how useful it is and how much stuff we’ve written over the past three years:

  • Type the name of a play into the search box, and then hit the search button, and you’ll get all pages relating to that play returned.
  • Type ‘Review’ into the search box, and you’ll get all of our reviews
  • Type ‘Help’ into the search box, and you’ll get access to our extensive Help pages
  • ETC

It provides you with a much faster way to explore what’s available on our web-site, without having to learn our extensive menu system (though you can get help with that too at: How to use this web-site).

You should be aware of one limitation. You can not search the text of Shakespeare’s plays, because we generate the text dynamically depending on the format you’ve requested it in (compete script; cast list; parts & cues; Hhighlit text; etc).

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– Our plays on your own e-book readers

Internally, we edit the plays in epub format, and the master copy of each play is held as an epub, which can be read by most e-book readers. In a previous newsletter, we’ve mentioned that it is now possible, with a little software writing, to use calibre, an e-book management system to distribute the various forms of a play for a particular cast list to the e-readers being used by the playreaders.

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This means that performance is improved because you’re not accessing the play script across the web, and the quality of the displayed text is much higher (for example, on iBooks on an Apple iPhone or iPad).

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We’ve met internally with our huge team of IT developers (1 guy who gives his spare time for free – thank you Ben) and agreed that we’ll explore the feasibility of  implementing this.

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I am going to develop a specification for what we want to do, and Ben is going to explore the technical environment of Calibre to see what’s possible. We meet again at the beginning of October, to agree a plan. No doubt we’ll let you know more then.

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We are both hopeful that, by the beginning of 2018, we’ll be able to support the distribution of epub versions of the plays we’ve published to your own internal LAN to support your play-reading. We hope this will be of particular interest to larger organisations (colleges, schools, theatres, etc) who want to have high-quality delivery of the play-reading texts in a secure environment.

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– Virtual play-reading across the Net

For some time we’ve been wondering whether it would be possible, using Skype or Google Hangouts,  to have a Virtual play-reading, with different players located in different countries, even ‘across the Pond’.

A couple of weeks ago, we tried it, with two players in Edinburgh (myself and Eliza Langland); James Jagiello of Instant Shakespeare Company in New York; and Kirsty O’Sullivan – a friend of Eliza’s – in the Cayman Islands. Thanks to James and Kirsty, for putting up with innumerable messages from us to try and organise this.

The first thing to say is that it worked (with some limitations outlined below). Personally I’m not sure how useful it is – it felt like a solution looking for a problem, but it may have some value. Anyway here’s the conclusions that I reached:

  • Google Hangouts seemed better technologically that Skype for our particular type of conversation
  • The quality of the sound was not wonderful. It might be improved if everyone wore headphones, and turned off their sound systems.
  • The biggest difficulty was getting people in different time zones to agree to meet up at the same time. In fact, due to work commitments, we never managed to get all four of us online at the same time, though we did get three of us together, and we read part of Act One Scene One of Hamlet. I don’t think we’d have won any Oscars.

It might have some uses: perhaps a ‘Virtual workshop’ with a set of play-readers sitting round a micropphone, with a remote workshop leader listening in, and offering advice; ‘broadcasts’ by the Edinburgh Shakespeare players with anyone who wanted, listening in. Personally I’m not sure how useful it is – it felt like a solution looking for a problem, but it may have some value.

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And biwm after all this talk, .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 are using, or thinking of using, Players-Shakespeare.com’s edition of Shakespeare’s plays for production rehearsals or play-reading, why don’t you ask to become a member of our Support for Playreading & Productions Closed FB group?

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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.

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