Such Tweet Sorrow Epilogue and Chronicle

By Charles Hunter (Such Tweet Sorrow producer)

While we were in the middle of it it seemed it would never end , but Such Tweet Sorrow did finish 10 days ago. It was more demanding than we could have imagined – in any case, we decided not to blog extensively during the production because we hoped the performance would be judged on its own merits or otherwise.

But now the flowers are beginning to whither on the graves of Juliet, Romeo, Tybalt and Mercutio, I thought I would start posting up excerpts from the rough diary I kept during the 14 months or so between its genesis and its realisation.

From my point of view it is interesting to recall how much of our early thinking survived, but also how we really couldn’t predict the actual nature of the production itself.
Charles Hunter

Diary of a Fearful Passage

9th March 2009
Helping shape a summary of the initial digital proposals we have come up with in a series of Mudlark-RSC workshops aimed at Channel’s 4’s new online investment vehicle, 4iP. This includes an IMDB for theatre, an ARG, a UGC viral web project and “a Twitter Play” an idea of Toby’s that he’s argued hard for – so we’ve tried to develop it into something feasible:
“A drama played out on Twitter. A small company of actors take on roles from a play and act out these roles in Twitter. Using the audience interjections as well as reacting to each other, the audience is a purely virtual one, but is potentially infinite in size. It looks at agency for twitter followers – Looks at creating entertainment for Twitter – adding entertainment to what is currently News, Sport and networking”

6th May 2009
Toby reports back from a long summit meeting involving the RSC, 4iP Screen West Midlands and the Arts Council.
The main idea to gain traction was the bloody Twitter play. Tom Loosemore of 4iP jumped on it and now everyone really, really wants to take it further. Whatever it is , I’ve become the lead producer.

8th May 2009
Talk through this Twitter play idea with Toby – we’ve already been discussing how many of the story-lines in ARGs and other online narrative games are often so weak and Shakespeare’s plotting was one element that attracted us to working with the RSC. But the <140 updates of Twitter?

Later I jot down a list of Twitter USPS and dichotomies –
Twitter is:
1. Now – instant.
2. Short (though it can be endless)
3. Quick (also infinite)
4. Unfurling /rolling
5. Different voices
6. Then – a record.
7. Diary/blog v. Conversation
8. Personal vs Public

The Arts Council, 4iP and SWM are already offering funding/investment but we need to get a one-page proposal together. Five questions emerge after I stare out of the window for a while:
We want to use actors – if we are working with the RSC it just makes sense – but how do you “act” on Twitter? Surely it would have to be improvised…or can we mix scripted tweets in there ?
Do we work out a “real time” narrative – then twitter out of that narrative?
Does it need another reference point – or do we ground the whole thing in Twitter?
An original Shakespeare play or a new play?

14th May 2009
On the train to the Futuresonic conference in Manchester. More jottings
A straight version of a Shakespeare play would just be a chopping-board job and would give the actors nothing. But what about a reversioned classic?

We’ve come up with 6 weeks as a length for the Twitter play. Would we employ the actors 24/7? The rest of the audience can engage – can’t they? A sort of soap that exists on your Twitter-feed. Shall we let the audience see DMs between characters on the all-singing+dancing website we’ll build for this? And we’ve got to pick up on events in the real world, haven’t we – the MPs expenses scandal, Jordan and Peter , if it were today?

At Futuresonic, I’m hearing clever people talk about how social networks lead to “ambient relationships”. We’ll have some of that, please.

17th May 2009
Looked up what productions the RSC has coming up between now and the end of the year. As You Like It, Winter’s Tale, Julius Caesar, Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night are the candidates. I fancy Julius Caesar – there’s got to an general election here in the next 12 months and the New Labour regime looks pretty rocky.

18th May 2009
I’ve hardened up our thoughts into some notes for our champion at the RSC , their IT Head, John Benfield, who has got to present the Twitter play concept to the powerful RSC Steering Committee. I include this as one of the challenges: “Keeping it simple enough to engage casual followers and deep enough to match the RSC’s standards and expectations.”
We need this to progress now – 4IP are asking us for a structured proposal so they can take it forward. Some people at 4IP think it’s simply going to be a quick hit – one or two Shakespeare characters popping up on Twitter here and there. But we want to make a full play and we’re beginning to see it won’t be quick.

John tells me they are scheduling a new production of Romeo and Juliet for the autumn and we both know that’s the play we should base our Twitter project on. Those pesky teens would be tweeting if they were round today – not sure Julius and Brutus would – they’d probably get their spin doctors to do it for them.

3rd June 2009
Playing round with titles – Toward Love seems apt.

4th June
Of course. Such Tweet Sorrow… Some of my colleagues are wincing but it can’t be unsaid. A full proposal for 4iP includes these claims:
The main characters from Romeo and Juliet (which opens on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Stratford stage in November 2009) will be tweeting – branching out into new narratives as each talks to her/himself, to each other and to their growing band of followers. And a lot of it will be about the biggest subject of all : Love
Anyone on twitter will be able to follow all or any of the characters, who will be “played” by their RSC actors from the stage production.
The “script” will incorporate story-lines, ideas and language from the production too, but this will be a new play, the core of it written by the RSC/Mudlark creative team, but the live version completed and created by the RSC actors as they tweet AND by the tweeters who engage with the events and the characters.
You can watch the play live as tweets from characters you are following appear. You can also catch up at any point:  With a dedicated website, twitter-searches and the use of hashtags we will show you the whole play up to the present. And you can tap into the players’ DMs, and AudioBoo’s – private Direct Message tweets between characters – to find secret sub-plots and confidences.
The characters’ tweets may link to other places – their own blogs, audioboo soliloquies, facebook pages, flickr streams and relevant real world events that are playing on the participants’ minds as they tweet and the drama unfolds….

Well – it sounds pretty neat….


June 10, 2010. Uncategorized.

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