We’re a small organization in Portland, Oregon, working to freely distribute engaging audio presentations of all of Shakespeare’s plays to as wide an audience as possible via the internet and other electronic media. This will make Shakespeare more accessible to educators, the visually impaired, the disabled, people in rural areas, military personnel serving overseas, and the intellectually curious.
Although Shakespeare is hailed for his unprecedented understanding of the breadth of human variety, his plays are often perceived as reserved for the elite. Educational, economic, racial, geographic, and other societal divisions have distanced Shakespeare from a large potential audience. Efforts are increasing to erase those societal boundaries. For example, recently the NEA sponsored the largest tour of Shakespeare’s plays in American history, reaching public schools, university theaters, and military bases. As a result, over a million high-school students were introduced to live Shakespeare. However, Speak the Speech provides a way for an even greater number of people to access performances of all of Shakespeare’s plays.
Access To Shakespeare
The Internet reaches seventy-five percent of the American population, and that percentage is growing across all demographics. Internet radio and downloading is especially popular among 12 to 25 year olds. While this is the age when most people are first introduced to Shakespeare, they are unlikely to purchase a high quality audio performance. They may try to access an audio recording at a library, but not all libraries possess these recordings and interlibrary loans do not send audio materials. This is particularly problematic in rural areas. Thanks to the accessibility of the Internet, the plays would be instantly available wherever there was an Internet connection, including schools and libraries.
Audio theatre is a wonderful match for Shakespeare, whose love of wordplay is most apparent when professional actors speak his text. Listening to actors perform Shakespeare’s plays reveals layers of meaning in the Elizabethan English that are not easily discerned by other means. Audio theatre places emphasis on what made Shakespeare great: his use of language. Not only does audio theatre work well for Shakespeare, but Shakespeare’s style of writing is particularly suited for audio theatre, as it incorporates many stage directions into the text, so that the characters often say what they are doing as they do it. This creates an audio picture, much like those created during the Golden Days of radio.
Professionally Recorded, Available For Free
Various theatre companies around the nation, and perhaps the world, will be asked to record a performance. The performances will be professionally recorded in a studio, before a live audience or in other suitable venues, and edited to ensure that they are suitable for audio theatre. The plays will then be put up for free distribution online: provided nobody sells, changes, or takes undue credit for the work, they are encouraged to distribute the recordings however they can. An annotated script will accompany each play, so that the audience can follow along on the website. By hovering over selected parts of the script, the audience will find notes from the actors and director, as well as definitions of archaic words. This will make the website one of the most helpful online Shakespeare resources available.
Current Board Members
Peter Pressman, founder of Speak the Speech, obtained his degrees in English and Biology with a minor in theatre from Lewis & Clark in Portland, Oregon. Peter also has a background in web and audio design. Favorite roles include the Baker in Into the Woods, Orsino in Twelfth Night, and Pinocchio in, well, Pinocchio. Other voice work includes narration of an educational theatre history series. Currently a neurology resident at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Peter also enjoys martial arts, the outdoors and freelance writing.
Emily Ward is currently teaching drama at a middle school in McMinnville. She obtained her BA in Theatre and her MAT from Pacific University. Besides teaching, Emily dabbles in all aspects of theatre. Her Portland acting debut, in the summer of 2006, was with the Classic Greek Theatre of Oregon, where she was in the chorus for Orestes. She also has worked as the box office manager for Profile Theatre, CoHo Productions and Home Planet Productions. Emily has designed and maintained several websites.
Christopher McVey has an educational background working with teens who have learning difficulties as well as with adults that have mild to severe developmental disabilities. Chris has owned a business which allowed him to gain experience in marketing and management. He obtained his BA in Creative Writing with a Certificate in Technical Writing at Boise State University. Chris has not been in a stage production since high school but fondly remembers roles as Gregor in Mame, Archibald Craven in The Secret Garden and Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Chris enjoys reading Shakespeare and is excited to be part of Speak the Speech.
If you’d like to help make Shakespeare more accessible for everyone, or contribute a production to the site, please contact us! We need volunteers from all kinds of backgrounds and professions. Currently we are in need of talented Grant Writers!