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Royal Shakespeare Company

Festival Website Allows Shakespeare Fans
To Participate in Worldwide Community

A new social networking platform, myShakespeare, launched this month 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 Shakespeare’s stories, characters, and words weave through our daily lives.

Supported by BP, myShakespeare capitalizes 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 visualizations 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.

Comedian and musician Tim Minchin was the first to join the conversation, describing in his light-hearted introduction to the site how the 448-year old writer changed his life.

“Saying Shakespeare was a good writer is like saying space is big,” Minchin said in an RSC release. “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 was rapper, poet, and playwright Kate Tempest with her new poem, “My Shakespeare.” Between now and November 2012, many other artists have been tapped to produce work for the site: 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, Forced Entertainment; students from Central St Martins; 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 U.K.

“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,” said RSC Artistic Director Michael Boyd in a statement. “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 hope that people will join that conversation, either by blogging or through Facebook and Twitter, and make myShakespeare their Shakespeare.

The World Shakespeare Festival, which began April 23, will feature thousands of U.K. and international artists in more than 70 productions and exhibitions, events, and activities taking place across the U.K.

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 U.K. and international arts organizations, and with Globe to Globe, a major international program produced by Shakespeare's Globe. It runs until 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.

April 27, 2012

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