“To be or not to be?” There’s an App for That…

Posted April 19th, 2012 at 3:52 pm.

A signature work of the Bard just became more accessible, thanks to a new iPad app developed by Bryn Mawr College Professor Katherine Rowe and University of Notre Dame Associate Professor of English Elliott Visconsi.

Designed to bring a worldwide audience together around Shakespeare's plays, The Tempest for iPad is more than a digital book. The app is designed for social reading, authoring and collaboration. Readers have access to audio recordings of the play that provide alternative performances of key passages, and they can customize their experience, using only the content and tools they want, when they want them.

"We are discovering that one of the most important components of learning at any stage of our lives is the ability to stretch ourselves just the right amount," says Rowe. "Our app invites Shakespeare fans and potential fans to do that—it can grow with you as a reader." The app was engineered at Notre Dame's Center for Research Computing.

The first play printed in Shakespeare's First Folio of 1623, The Tempest is thought to be inspired by European discoveries of the New World. Its hauntingly beautiful verse makes it among the most frequently performed and beloved of Shakespeare's plays, and it has been selected as a theme for the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

The app can accommodate any Shakespeare-literacy level, from academics who want input from the world's leading Shakespeare scholars to those who are simply curious about Shakespeare or want a lively introduction to the play.

"Our goal is to invite all readers of Shakespeare—students, teachers, scholars, fans—to gather around this magnificent play. The iPad makes new styles of reading and writing, authoring and sharing possible, and we designed this app to create a thrilling new way for everyone to experience Shakespeare. This app is not just for the classroom. It's designed for anyone who loves Shakespeare, or anyone who wants to love Shakespeare but needs some help to do so," says Visconsi.

Readers of The Tempest for iPad can learn from short expert commentaries provided by the world's leading Shakespeare scholars, artists and teachers; enjoy a full-length, scrolling audio performance of the play by the internationally known touring company Actors from the London Stage; or create a custom play text using key passages. Illustrations, podcasts, teaching materials, and videos from the Folger Shakespeare Library, the world's premier destination for Shakespeare research, are included in the app.

The Tempest for iPad is available through iTunes for $13.99. Visconsi and Rowe, with the support of Notre Dame and a team of investors, have created a startup company in South Bend, Luminary Digital Media LLC.

Luminary aims to develop many more applications designed to bring together readers worldwide around core humanities texts. Additional information is available at the Luminary website.

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