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Want to learn more about a pair of star-crossed lovers who defy their bitterly feuding families to carry on a brief but intense, heartbreaking and ultimately tragic romance
There’s an app for that.
A University of Guelph professor has just launched Romeo and Juliet:
The Shakespeare App on iTunes, repackaging the Bard’s 400-year-old play for the gadget-toting, multimedia-craving digital generation.
“In some ways, we’re pandering to the new media but we’re also really respecting the traditional stuff,” said Prof. Daniel Fischlin, a research chair and professor in the university’s School of English and Theatre Studies (SETS).
Along with a team of student research assistants and members of the Guelph IT community, Fischlin has produced a content-rich application for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch that brings a wealth of interactive information about one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays to the user’s fingertips. Literally.
There’s the script itself, but that’s supported with reams of exhaustively researched background material and facts, photos, videos, interviews with Shakespeare experts, definitions of obscure words and phrases, source texts, references to past productions of the play in different cultures and theatres around the world (including some from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival), a search function and note-taking capabilities.
“We wanted to converge as many media as possible into the app,” said Fischlin, “and to collide as many different ways of seeing and thinking about the play.”
And that just makes sense for a target audience that has quickly grown accustomed to swiping and tapping for information on their web-connected smartphones and tablet computers, he added.
While the user-friendly app is ideal for young people just starting to explore “Romeo and Juliet”, it’s also something educators can use when preparing lesson plans, noted Fischlin.
“It’s a full-on teaching tool,” he said. “It’s a portal to a whole range of materials.”
And it’s not a stretch to imagine Shakespearean actors opening the app on their iPhones as they learn their lines.
“It’s just so ramped up with possibilities,” he said.
The application has been a labour of (non-tragic) love for Fischlin and his team that first started taking shape four years ago, before apps were even on the map. Bringing the information together for mobile devices in the now ubiquitous format has taken about a year.
Fischlin said he’s hoping that sales of the app ($4.99 on iTunes), will help fund another project, with “Hamlet” or “Macbeth” among the likely candidates.
It’s part of a push to add to what he sees as a woefully inadequate amount of decent educational software available now.
“Quality content has to be generated, and we have to find interesting ways to make it appeal to kids,” said Fischlin.
In the meantime, he’s hoping that the Romeo and Juliet app on any other platform will run as sweet. In addition to its recent launch on the Mac App Store, there are also plans to release it for Android devices and possibly even Research in Motion’s BlackBerry Playbook.
Download the app here.
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