I’m not only a book geek, I’m also a Shakespeare geek, a social media geek (okay: addict) and, to be honest, probably an all around geek. I’m a major fan of the Stratford Festival in general, ever since I saw Colm Feore in Macbeth a few years ago. One of my favourite Shakespeare plays, and that performance made Colm Feore one of my favourite stage actors as well. Plus, I’ll admit it, the disappearing/reappearing Banquo ghost scene really, really freaked me out. (It was happening on stage right in front of me! In real life! With no special camera angle effects! How is it possible???)
Point being, the Stratford Festival impresses me year in and year out. I try to catch at least one play a year, and this year, with the daily bus to and from Toronto (yes!), I look forward to seeing many more.
Still, even before this year’s season begins, I have to applaud Stratford Festival for its innovative use of social media this Valentine’s Day. In the days leading up to Valentine’s, the Stratford Facebook page is posting daily updates on the lives of Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet. To be honest, Romeo and Juliet has never been one of my favourite Shakespeare plays — overhyped, over-romanticized, and seriously, I always found the ending stupid rather than indicative of true love. Studying it in university made me appreciate it more, but still, give me Hamlet’s soliloquies and Lady Macbeth’s bloodlust any day.
That being said, Romeo and Juliet is the perfect play to play out on Facebook. Can you just imagine a modern day teenage Romeo sending a modern day teenage Juliet a friend request?
Or a Memorial Page being set up for Mercutio? He was, apparently, a very popular guy. (2,606 likes!)
The Shakespeare geek in me is especially thrilled that even while telling Romeo and Juliet’s story through social media, Stratford Festival maintains Shakespearean language, taking direct quotes from the play. I remember learning Shakespeare in high school and finding the language difficult to get into. One option was to translate the words into contemporary English. Never for the big, dramatic soliloquies, of course, but every now and then, it helped to figure out what a character was talking about.
The best trick, I later learned, was to hear it spoken out loud, so my friends and I would try reading out passages to each other. It did help, except of course we also learned that the trick actually required gifted actors to speak the lines. Our mini-recitations formed some fond and amusing high school memories, but I, at least, will never get on the Stratford stage.
Now, of course, I wish we’d had a Shakespeare Facebook stream in high school. By keeping the Shakespearean language, and posting brief snippets alongside social media updates, Stratford Festival succeeds in making the play accessible and contemporary without dumbing it down.
Bravo, Stratford Festival. Bravo.
And just for that brief moment of happiness before this turns into “never was a story of more woe…”