When Shakespeare was in plague lockdown in 1592 he wrote his great erotic poem Venus and Adonis. The Royal Shakespeare Company is not expecting that from the public but instead, how about teaching your dog to bark the word Macbeth?
Or recreate the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene with vegetables. Shout some Hamlet over the garden fence to your neighbour. If you’ve got flour, bake a Shakespeare-themed cake.
The RSC has announced that because it cannot celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday on 23 April with physical events in Stratford-upon-Avon, it will do it virtually.
In partnership with the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC, it has launched a worldwide initiative, #ShareYourShakespeare, encouraging people to think laterally to celebrate the Bard.
The project is supported by David Tennant, who recruited fellow actors including Jane Lapotaire, Paapa Essiedu and David Threlfall for a film of them delivering the monologue “All the world’s a stage”, from As You Like It.
Gregory Doran, the RSC’s artistic director, said that with productions cancelled and buildings closed, “it feels more important than ever to connect with our audiences, artists and partners across the world through shared experiences”.
He added: “Together we can celebrate those everyday acts of human creativity and resilience that continue to inspire us, raise a smile and propel us forward, together in times of crisis.”
The idea is that people everywhere film or photograph something Shakespeare-related and upload it to Twitter, Instagram or YouTube tagging @theRSC and using the hashtag #ShareYourShakespeare. Or they can email or post.
Organisers have offered a few ideas that also include: perform “All the world’s a stage” with your family; paint your favourite scene; tell a Shakespeare story using only emojis; rewrite a speech as a song. Or even teach your dog to bark some Shakespeare.
“I’d love someone to do that, wouldn’t that be brilliant,” said Kerry Radden, the head of audiences at the RSC. “When we were reaching out for ideas the first two people who came back, one said: ‘I’m going to read a sonnet to my cat,’ the other said: ‘I’m going to read a sonnet to my new puppy.’
“We are expecting the animal community to take part.”
The idea is to create a huge montage of the most surprising and creative ideas that will, on 23 April, be “the biggest ever digital birthday card to Shakespeare”.
Radden said the idea was to bring people together. “Instead of being the Royal Shakespeare Company, we want to become the Royal Shakespeare Community and embrace people’s creativity while they are stuck at home.
“Shakespeare gets into all nooks and crannies of our lives and we would love to get lots of wacky, creative ideas. It is whatever Shakespeare means to you, whether that is kids dressed up performing Macbeth in the garden or baking a cake with a quote on top.
“We want it to be a happy, joyful thing which brings people together. Fun not worthy.”
Michael Witmore, the director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, said it did not matter how polished the endeavours were.
“We just want to show what ordinary creative people – which means all people – can do when we put our minds and hearts together in a time of crisis. Just because we are sheltering in place doesn’t mean we can’t create in place too.”