Shakespeare goes social

17 April 2012

The World Shakespeare Festival, produced by the RSC, opens up online and invites everyone to join the conversation on myShakespeare.

Tim Minchin and Kate Tempest launch the global conversation online today

A new social networking platform, myShakespeare, launches today to mark the start of the World Shakespeare Festival (WSF), the biggest ever celebration of Shakespeare, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) for London 2012 Festival.

Artists from across the world have been commissioned to create new work for myShakespeare and people are invited to join the global Shakespeare conversation online through this playful site, which shows how his stories, characters and words weave through our daily lives: http://myshakespeare.worldshakespearefestival.org.uk

myShakespeare, which is supported by BP, capitalises on the huge interest in Shakespeare around the world, by drawing on references to his plays across three key digital platforms - Twitter (social), Flickr (visual) and eBay (commercial). It's free to access and users can create their own unique searches, based on a particular moment in time, and share their personal data visualisations through Facebook and Twitter.

With thousands of people taking part, throughout the Festival, myShakespeare will explore Shakespeare's influence on everything from culture, sport and entertainment to education, politics and economics.

Today, comedian and musician, Tim Minchin, is the first to join the conversation, describing in his light-hearted introduction to the site how the 447-year old writer changed his life.

Tim said: 'Saying Shakespeare was a good writer is like saying space is big. We all know he was special, but it's hard to get your head around what makes a 16th century poet stay famous for 400 years. The Royal Shakespeare Company has produced this festival to celebrate the incredibly diverse ways in which Will's work still lives, and – more importantly – to encourage you guys to get in amongst it.'

First commission on the site is rapper, poet and playwright, Kate Tempest, with her new poem, My Shakespeare. Between now and November 2012 other artists producing work for the site include the following (biogs below):

From Australasia: Tom Uglow and Google Creative Labs
From Asia: digital artist, Aaajiao
From the Americas: playwright and performer, Will Power
From Europe: artist and writer, Tim Etchells, and Forced Entertainment, plus students from Central St Martins, plus artist, designer and author Brendan Dawes, and visual artist, Emma Wolukau- Wanambwa

The new social platform also includes blogs from a wide range of collaborators and commentators to provoke debate and stimulate the conversation as well as searches completed by Festival artists from Brazil, Tunisia, Russia, Iraq and around the UK.

Michael Boyd, RSC Artistic Director, said: 'The theatre programme for the World Shakespeare Festival, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, is the biggest enquiry ever into what Shakespeare says to us today and how artists and audiences around the world respond to his work in the 21st century. With myShakespeare we are asking the same questions in a new experimental online space. Half the world studies Shakespeare at school, and no other world artist can claim to be a common cultural reference point in the same way. Do we, can we, reflect that online?

'Can our understanding of a 17th century English playwright be transformed by new media in the way that our notion of English landscape painting has been changed by David Hockney's experimentation with the iPad?

'We have commissioned theatre artists to create their first digital works alongside artists who already swim in both analogue and digital waters. These new pieces will be introduced to the site throughout the Festival, and myshakespeare will also grow with regular blog posts, comments, and the ever changing findings of our search engine, 'Banquo'. 'Banquo' will be measuring conversations about Shakespeare and his value every minute of every day, everywhere in the world. You can click on a day and see how people are talking about Shakespeare, follow the links to be part of it and watch your posts connect with Banquo's pulse.

'We hope that people will join that conversation, either by blogging or through Facebook and Twitter, and make myshakespeare their Shakespeare.'

myshakespeare goes live today and the World Shakespeare Festival begins on Monday 23 April when thousands of UK and international artists will join together in over 70 productions and exhibitions, events and activities taking place across the UK.

The World Shakespeare Festival is a celebration of Shakespeare as the world's playwright, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, in an unprecedented collaboration with leading UK and international arts organizations, and with Globe to Globe, a major international programme produced by Shakespeare's Globe. It runs from 23 April to November and forms part of London 2012 Festival which is the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad, bringing leading artists from all over the world together in a UK-wide festival in the summer of 2012.

The World Shakespeare Festival is supported by BP, as Founding Presenting Partner, and by the National Lottery through the Olympic Lottery Distributor and Arts Council England.

Social media links at www.facebook.com/worldshakespearefestival  
and www.twitter.com/wsf2012

To take get involved in My Shakespeare visit https://myshakespeare.worldshakespearefestival.org.uk

- Ends –

For further information, please contact jane.ellis@rsc.org.uk 01789 9412668 or 07966 295032 or philippa.harland@rsc.org.uk 0207 845 0512 or 07887 837900

Notes to Editors

For a hi-res image of Tim Minchin for press use please contact elsie.king@rsc.org.uk

To see a short introduction to myShakespeare by Tim Minchin visit http://myshakespeare.worldshakespearefestival.org.uk/about

To see Kate Tempest perform her new poem, My Shakespeare, outside the Olympic Park visit http://myshakespeare.worldshakespearefestival.org.uk/gallery/my-shakespeare-by-kate-tempest/

To find out more about the World Shakespeare Festival and the programme of productions and events visit www.worldshakespearefestival.org.uk

Artists' biogs

aaajiao (Xu Wenkai) is one of China's foremost digital artists, bloggers and free culture developers. Born in 1984 in Xi'an City, he now resides in Beijing. In 2003 he established the sound art website: cornersound.com, and in 2006 he founded the Chinese take on the blog we-make-money-not-art: We Need Money Not Art. He is devoted to Processing, an open source visual programming software and Dorkbot, a non-profit initiative for creative minds.

Central St Martins – MA Communication Design Students - An art college and cultural centre in one, Central Saint Martins is internationally renowned for the creative energy of its students, staff and graduates. Central Saint Martins has an outstanding reputation for educating foundation, undergraduate, postgraduate and research students. Fundamental to study at the College are experimentation, innovation, risk-taking, questioning and discovery, within a highly supportive learning environment, no matter which discipline studied.

Brendan Dawes is a UK based, MoMA exhibited artist, designer, author, maker and the founder of Beep Industries. Before founding Beep Industries he was the Creative Director of magneticNorth for eleven years, leading the team there to realise digital design solutions for clients that included BBC, Diesel, Reuters, Astra Zeneca, Kellogs, Fox Kids, Channel 4, Arup and Coca-Cola. In 2009 he was listed among the top twenty web designers in the world by .Net magazine and was featured in the "Design Icon" series in Computer Arts.

Tim Etchells is an artist and a writer based in the UK whose work shifts between performance, visual art and fiction. He has worked in a wide variety of contexts, notably as the leader of the world-renowned performance group Forced Entertainment with whom he has directed, devised, and occasionally performed in, dozens of critically acclaimed performance works that have been shown at major festivals and theatres around the world. He is currently Professor of Performance Writing at Sheffield University.

Will Power is an award-winning playwright and performer. His drama “Fetch Clay, Make Man” had its world premiere at the McCarter Theatre Center (upcoming New York run 2013). Power's adaptation of the Greek tragedy Seven Against Thebes, retitled “The Seven,” enjoyed a successful Off-Broadway run at the New York Theater Workshop in 2006 and The La Jolla Playhouse in 2008. His solo show FLOW was featured in the Hip Hop Theater Festival before touring nationally and internationally to critical acclaim.

Tom Uglow started Google's Creative Lab in Europe and now works in Sydney, Australia on exploratory projects and creative ideas that help connect Google, Android and YouTube with users. Previous projects included campaigns such as Art Project, Life in a Day, the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, & Space Lab as well as working with charities and cultural groups around the world. He tweets as @tomux, writes two blogs, has presented on the BBC's Culture Show, is an RCA mentor, a member of the D&AD Executive and the European Internet Week Council.

Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa works in a wide range of media, which include installation, sound, video, photography, printmaking and drawing. Recent exhibitions and screenings include: I Like Inside, O Like Outside (Vienna International Film Festival, AT), Chewing The Scenery (Swiss Off-Site Pavilion, 54th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, IT), Nothing Personal (Marcelle Alix, Paris, FR), Serpentine Gallery Map Marathon (Serpentine Gallery, London, GB), Públicos y Contrapúblicos (Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo, Seville, ES) and Whose Map Is It? New Mapping by Artists (Institute of International Visual Art, London, GB). She is currently a Fine Art Researcher at the Jan van Eyck Academie (NL) and has recently been awarded a research fellowship by the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London (GB). www.wolukau-wanambwa.net

BP – Founding presenting Partner

As Founding Presenting Partner of the Festival, BP is supporting the Royal Shakespeare Company's What Country Friends Is This?, three plays staged by one ensemble company of RSC actors, exploring migration, exile, shipwreck and the discovery of brave new worlds. The plays, The Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night and The Tempest, date from the early, middle and late periods of Shakespeare's work as he returned throughout his life to explore these themes. Led by RSC Associate Director, David Farr, this unique trilogy will play in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon before moving to the Roundhouse in London.

WCFIT also includes a major community project that will see members of the RSC's creative team working with the local community to create a performance of Pericles that will be staged at The Courtyard Theatre in Stratford as part of Open Stages, a ground-breaking initiative which brings amateur and professional actors closer together. Additionally, BP are supporting the London season of Julius Caesar, directed by RSC Chief Associate Director, Gregory Doran, and Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Iqbal Khan at the Noel Coward Theatre in London's West End when the shows transfer from Stratford-upon-Avon.

BP are also supporting two off-stage projects, the RSC's myShakespeare, a unique digital project which invites users to join the global Shakespeare conversation through this playful website, and 'Shakespeare: staging the World, The BP Exhibition' presented by BP's longstanding partner, the British Museum, in collaboration with the RSC.

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