So I realize I’m a little late to the blogging-about-this-table but in anticipation of next week’s cultural policy class topic, which is Integration and Participation in the arts, I would like to take a moment to talk about Such Tweet Sorrow. For those of you who haven’t spoken to me in the last week and a half I have started following Romeo and Juliet on Twitter. What is this you say? Shakespeare on Twitter? That highly unnecessary 140 character stream of consciousness?
Yes folks that very one?
The Royal Shakespeare Company has partnered with Mudlark, which is a cell phone gaming enterprise, to bring tweeters the story of Romeo and Juliet in real time. Now I have been following the 6 characters (Romeo has just recently joined twitter) for about a week and a half now. The actors who play Romeo, Mercuteio, Jess-Nurse, Juliet, Tybalt, and Friar Lawrence are given background information created by writers and tweet based on the days storylines. The company has taken a few liberties with the storyline to modernize it. For instance, in Shakespeare we are never given a clear cut reason why the houses hate each other, we just chalk it up to medieval family feuding. In this rendition Lord Montague and Lady Capulet were secretly having an affair, until a fatal crash brought everything out into the open. 10 years ago Montague was stoned while driving Lady Capulet to meet with Friar Laurence (who at the time was not a man of god but simply a stoned out citizen), Montague survived but Lady Capulet died, leaving behind her 3 children- Jess(Nurse), Tybalt, and Juliet. So “the nurse-Jess”, Tybalt and Juliet are siblings rather than cousins, and caretaker and so-forth.
Mercuteio spends most of his tweets chronicling his and Romeo’s escapades via twitpics and youtube videos (remember Romeo hasn’t met his love yet so right now they just party and pick up ladies), while also openly hating Tybalt Capulet. So far Tybalt and Romeo have had two altercations. Tybalt is just angry all the time. Juliet is just waiting to turn 16 and missing her Mum. Jess attempts to parent both children. Although I don’t know that Tybalt is a child. Romeo is 19 so I’m assuming Tybalt is about the same. Friar Lawrence tries to calm the water through peace and spliff (for those of you here in the states that just means weed).
I find myself anticipating situation as well, Juliet has been tweeting about her upcoming birthday party for days now. In my mind I know that this will be the first time that Romeo and Juliet meet and I think about how the story is about to change, what the two might say once they meet each other, and how they will convey their feelings through their tweets (as I write this I realize how ridiculous this entire post would sound to someone who has never heard of twitter). It’s kind of fun to know the story but also to wonder how this version will evolve.
While this experiment is fun to watch unfold it illustrates the way in which arts organizations are trying to create spheres for audience participation as well as relevant works. If you can’t bring the audience to the theater bring the theater to the audience. The characters ask followers to actively participate in the conversations being had. Whether its to support TeamMontague or TeamCapulet, help Juliet pick out a dress for her sweet 16, or get Romeo on Twitter they want the audience to be involved in the story. They place themselves into today’s world. Just the other day they were commenting on the election debates that were televised throughout the country. So while I was watching the tweets of some people I know are based in England I was also watching the Such Tweet Sorrow cast add their two cents about it.
It poses an interesting alternative to the way that arts organizations cultivate audiences. Perhaps this project will bring a younger audience to the actual theater because of this strategic marketing experience. Or maybe it will prompt other companies to do the same thing. I’m interested to see what you all think about this project and whether it is just a silly social media game or something that can be a legitimate form of art, marketing, networking, audience cultivation.
Here are the names to follow