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28 February 2024

Interactive playtexts make ‘page to stage’ a reality

Talia Rodgers

Head of Higher Education, Digital Theatre+

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Educators have long written about the journey from ‘page to stage’. This usually refers to the process by which theatremakers stage a play for an audience, beginning with a script and ending with a show. 

Well, that phrase now has new resonance with the publishing of our new Interactive Playtexts series on DT+. Starting with Macbeth, we’re providing students and teachers with a fully annotated and linked text on screen, where the annotations for a line of dialogue include links to the exact same moment in the filmed productions we have on DT+. So for the first time it’s possible to jump straight from a page of text to its staging in a professional context.

Tracing ‘pathways’ in the text referencing design, character, and language, Christie Carson’s pithy annotations guide the reader through Shakespeare’s extraordinarily rich play. She stops off at well-chosen illustrative moments in three productions of Macbeth - from the Stratford Festival in Ontario, the UK’s Liverpool Everyman Playhouse, and London’s South Asian theatre Tara Arts. The reader can see at a glance how diverse companies realised those lines on stage. 

We collaborated with designers to keep the layout as clear and readable as possible, and worked with Christie to ensure the annotations speak to the needs of students at both high school level and undergraduate. Bringing her longstanding expertise in Shakespeare studies and in teaching to bear, Christie was able to isolate key moments in the text and ask engaging and compelling questions of the reader, to provoke their own responses.

So these are effectively multimodal performance editions of the plays: they can be used alongside the scholarly editions which go into textual detail and supply the Quarto/Folio variants. 

The ability to compare very easily the dialogue and stage directions in the text to the way they’ve been staged - and indeed to compare the different productions to each other and understand the interpretative choices made - is a world-first. We’re excited to employ the productions we have in this innovative new format, and to be using the Open Source Shakespeare edition of the play for this purpose.

We have also now created playtexts for Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo and Juliet, The Importance of Being Earnest and we plan to create texts for Othello, King Lear and Hamlet later this year! 

If you’d like access to this exciting new resource and are not yet a customer of Digital Theatre+, please get in touch with a member of our team today. If you already have a subscription, click here