by Kate Moody | Stornaway Communications Assistant, March 2023
Theatre practitioner, Rob Myles, takes his passion for all things Shakespeare, and pioneers a movement for more accessibility towards his iconic texts, using interactive video pieces for education.
Created by actor, writer, creative director, filmmaker and Shakespeare enthusiast Rob Myles, “Illuminated Text” is an interactive video experience that offers a deep dive into ‘Hamlet’. As players click through the game, decorated with classical calligrapher and street artist Alice Mazzilli’s graffiti-style calligraphy, they can understand more about Shakespeare’s work through the lenses of rhetoric, imagery, sound and rhythm. Once these areas have been covered, or explored as much as the player wishes to, users are invited to the “fifth dimension”, to interpret a new piece of text in their own unique way, guided by Mazzilli’s expertise in turning rhythm, emotion, and language into graphic art.
The main game allows users to click on singular lines from a section from Hamlet and explore these ‘four dimensions’. Narration accompanies each section, alongside the calligraphy, adding multiple levels of accessibility and engagement into the game.
“In order to make this feel different, we would need a prepared environment that gave people agency to explore, to be motivated by their own curiosity.”
Myles, of working-class origins, believes that popularising previously privileged knowledge will help students see the structures that underpin Shakespeare’s writing, and that these are what have helped his words stand the test of time. In the process, it could transform how they engage with and create new writing.
“Could we lift the hood and shine a light on Shakespeare’s intricacies so everyone can see them? And could we do it in a digitally disruptive way?”
“Illuminated Text” is the newest piece of online content for “Stratfest@Home”, the festival’s subscription streaming service. It also features filmed productions from many theatres, alongside Stratford, original content from festival members, and educational materials for families and schools alike.
Stratford’s digital library became immensely popular over the course of the pandemic, due to its accessibility for students who were now learning from home. Stratford was already creating pre-recorded versions of their Shakespeare performances, with the original Shakespearean texts running alongside them.
Their use exponentially increased over the pandemic, leading to the creation of Classroom Connect, a suite of filmed productions and academic resources, where “Illuminated Text” now sits. Classroom Connect also now includes filmed plays by artists from a myriad of traditions and backgrounds, including Indigenous storytelling and pieces by contemporary Black playwrights.
The story map that Myles made is quite phenomenal, with over 170 story islands being used. This level of interactivity proves to be extremely helpful, especially with this piece of work being for educational purposes, as it allows potential students to get a very well-rounded view of Shakespeare’s work, in a format that is accessible to them.
“The misperception of the work as high art -that it’s not for me. What if instead, it was light, fun, playful?”
Myles and his collaborators made “Illuminated Text” completely online. His use of Stornaway meant that many collaborators could work on the project at once, and this opened up a whole new workflow. Myles and his team used many of Stornaway’s “game logic” features, which added even more approachability to the project. His use of the ‘either / or’ feature has meant that users can progress onto new parts of the project if they have already interacted with a certain feature. This intelligent method of education has allowed for more intuitive methods of learning, even when working in the remote conditions that education was put under during the pandemic.
“Getting to develop the Illuminated Text pilot with the Stornaway engine was a joy. To my knowledge, Stornaway had not been used to create an interactive online platform at this scale before, yet the island system allowed us to see the network of branching paths and choices available to the students in macro, and track students’ exploration of the content to make new features available. The wireframe has allowed us to create a little world in which this content can live cohesively, bringing artwork and textwork seamlessly together in an interactive, multimedia approach to education.”
Beyond “Illuminated Text”:
Myles has created “The Show Must Go Online”, an online collection of zoom recordings, where actors performed Shakespeare’s 36 First Folio plays. This took place over the time of 10 months, and is now available via YouTube and Myles’ own website. 500 actors took part, including Startford’s own ensemble.