Making Shakespeare relevant in the digital age

Cisco has teamed up with the Royal Shakespeare Company for a webcast that gives a new twist to the Bard’s works

As part of the World Shakespeare Festival which this year forms part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, Cisco has teamed up with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) to bring a specially commissioned production to up to 8,000 students up and down the country, with the support of Ravensbourne and Janet (one of the world’s leading research and education networks).

The project forms part of Cisco’s ongoing commitment to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in the UK, and highlights how digital and social media can make the arts more far-reaching and engaging to a younger audience.

On 2 July, students had the chance to watch and react to a live webcast of I, Cinna (The Poet), a new play inspired by Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

I, Cinna gives voice to Shakespeare’s unluckiest man - he speaks less than 20 lines in Julius Caesar before being mistaken for the wrong person and torn to pieces by the mob. The new one-man show, which has the children writing with the character Cinna throughout the performance, asks students to think about the power of words and how words can be used to influence change.

The 45-minute play was followed by a live Q&A session with the director and writer, Tim Crouch, the actor, Jude Owusu and children’s author Malorie Blackman. The Q&A was hosted by the well-known TV presenter, Konnie Huq, and allowed children to submit questions in real-time.

The project also gave three groups of Ravensbourne students the chance to work with the world-renowned RSC and hone their specialist skills (such as web design and streaming, film production/shooting/direction, and live studio filming). This will hopefully help the students to boost their CVs, and in turn, increase their job prospects.

This is just one of several initiatives that Cisco is involved in. Others include the STEMNet challenge – to uncover the next generation of STEM students, the Cisco Networking Academy – a global education programme and the Get Set programme – this involves Cisco leaving a part of their network infrastructure after London2012 for the schools of East London.

By engaging the students through a multi-platform experience, the RSC was able to take Shakespeare to more students and gain greater participation and engagement than the traditional dramatic form could offer. Not only does this project inspire kids about the relevance of Shakespeare today, but also highlights the amazing possibilities of digital and social media and the excitement of IT as a future career choice.

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