The RSC has partnered with Google for the project, called Midsummer Night's Dreaming, in which Shakespeare's fanciful play will unfold in real time. The production will use a number of online formats, from live-streaming to written blogs, all shared through the social network Google+ over the Midsummer weekend, from 21 June.
It marks the company's second major foray into online drama, following its Twitter take on Romeo and Juliet, Such Tweet Sorrow, in 2010, which saw actors microblogging in character over the course of five weeks. However, that project, though praised for its intentions, was ridiculed in practice.
Midsummer Night's Dreaming will reduce the length of engagement required of audiences, as well as centre on a day of live events on Saturday 23 June in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Artistic director Gregory Doran will direct a group of actors over three days, during which the young lovers Lysander and Hermia will actually elope, leaving a trail of digital media behind them. The RSC has also commissioned a number of artists to report and respond to the main plot online in the guise of new characters – such as Bottom's rival the evil weaver and Mrs Snug – who will spend the weekend stitching her husband's lion costumes together. Audiences will be able to interact with these characters through Google+.
Doran said: "I am delighted to be working with Google on this truly daring and innovative project. We will be exploring what happens when one of Shakespeare's best-loved plays is experienced through the eyes of the internet."
Afterwards, the RSC will release a digitally annotated audio recording of the original play with links to the accompanying materials appearing at the appropriate moments.
Midsummer Night's Dreaming marks Google's first partnership with a theatre company. Tom Uglow, director of Google's Creative Lab, said: "Google loves thinking big and we wanted to reimagine A Midsummer Night's Dream for a digital age. Adding a little of our digital fairy dust to the magic of the RSC, the idea is to take the play from theatre into the real world, online and off, allowing people who can't visit to experience and interact with the play via Google+."
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