The 7 Wackiest Shakespeare Kickstarters

The idea for this post came to me as I was flipping through my copy of To Be, Or Not To Be: That Is The Adventure<em “mso-bidi-font-style:=”” normal”=””>, a choose-your-own-adventure version of Hamlet, written by the hilarious Ryan North, and illustrated by an army of incredible cartoonists and illustrators (including my personal favourite web cartoonist, Kate Beaton). If you ever find yourself concerned that ‘the kids these days’ aren’t getting enough Shakespeare in their diet, I invite you to stroll over to the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, where North’s project was born. Not only was <em “mso-bidi-font-style:=”” normal”=””>To Be or Not to Be the most successful Shakespeare Kickstarter ever, it was the most successful publishing Kickstarter ever, raising $560,000 ABOVE its original goal of $20,000! Rest assured, friends, the bard is alive and well and living…on the internet.

But not all Kickstarters are created equal. As keen as I am on exploring new ways of experiencing the bard, some of these projects are downright bonkers. Many of the projects are what you might expect: small theatres trying to put up a show or go on tour, musicians producing a Shakespeare-themed album, etc. But others…well, you’ll see!

7. Shakespeare Deathmatch – by Michael T. Desing

Pitch: A card-game battle of Shakespearean proportions that pits the bloodlust of Macbeth against the lunacy of King Lear, and more.

Verdict: Essentially the card game War with Shakespearen twist. You don’t even need a special deck, so I’m not clear on why he needs money to make this happen…

Shakespeare Says: “You are not worth another word, else I’d call you knave.”

(All’s Well that Ends Well)

6. Pulp Shakespeare – by Her Majesty’s Secret Players

Pitch: A boxer, two hit-men, and a gimp walk into the sixteenth century….

Verdict: Why mess with two good things?

Shakespeare Says: “Your brain is as dry as the remainder biscuit after voyage.” (As You Like It)

5. Shaking SpearsBy Spear Carrier Productions

Pitch: The tragedies of William Shakespeare set to the music of the tragic Britney Spears.

Verdict: This is a natural pairing if ever I…No. I can’t do it. Please just hit me, baby, one more time. Or as the bard would say…

Shakespeare Says: “Methink’st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee.” (All’s Well That Ends Well)

4. Shakespeare on the Trapeze!By Matchbook Productions

Pitch: An inventive new production of Richard II, or as he was known in his day, That Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.

Verdict: For every time you’ve found yourself sitting in the theatre and thinking, “British Medieval history is great, but you know what it needs? More trapezes.” This is your play.

Shakespeare Says: “I do desire we may be better strangers.” (As You Like It)

3. Terminator the Second

Pitch: Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Shakespeare style. He’s back, and apparently he picked up some Elizabethan lingo while he was gone.

Verdict: ‘T2 or not T2?,’ was never a question that needed to be asked.

Shakespeare Says: “More of your conversation would infect my brain.”

2. The Bardy Bunch: The War of the Families Partridge and Brady

Pitch: A unique NYC Fringe show that explores the natural intersections that occur when you combine tragic heroes, star-crossed lovers, scheming villains….with Shakespeare.

Verdict: Zany as this is, I would probably go see it just to hear Helena from A Midsummer Night’s Dream complain about “Hermia, Hermia, Hermia!”

Shakespeare Says: “I shall laugh myself to death at this puppy-headed 
(The Tempest)

And the top spot on my list goes to this ambitious project, which proved to be too crazy, even for the internet (just let that statement sink in for a minute):

1. Translating Shakespeare into lolspeak – by Dorian Greyscale

Pitch: This project is seeking your hard-earned moneyz to translate the immortal words of the greatest poet of the English language into internet-speak. Plus cute pictures of cats.

Verdict: I’m sure this gentleman had only the best intentions, but I think we can all be grateful that no local bookstore will be forced to carry, ‘Teh Complete Werkz Ov Shakspr (+ kittehz!!!)’ anytime soon.

Shakespeare says: “I had rather chop this hand off at a blow, And with the other fling it at thy face.”
(3 Henry VI)

Thursday Shoutout – To Be Or Not To Be: That Is The Adventure

“…”Hey guys,” the ghost says.

You’re too shocked to say anything. Ghosts are real, Ophelia! Surprise!

Hamlet looks up at the ghost and waves.

“Hi dad!” he says.

We’ve got two options here, Ophelia:

OPTION FACEBOOK: Demand the ghost prove that he’s who he claims to be.
OPTION TWITTER: It doesn’t matter who he is, the real question is if this ghost is so big into murdering dudes why he doesn’t just murder Claudius himself? Riddle him THAT.”


What is this? It’s clearly got Hamlet characters in it (awesome!), but it’s got Ophelia’s point of view (awesome!!), and it’s written in modern, irreverent prose (…sure, awesome!!!) and it’s – le gasp! a CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE?! If you were born in the period during which Choose Your Own Adventure books were the pirate-bearded warrior kings of the school libraries, or love Hamlet to death, or both, then you really ought to check out the majesty that is To Be Or Not To Be: That Is The Adventure, by Toronto comic artist Ryan North.

Late last year, this book engaged in a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that proved an immense success. North broke some Kickstarter records for speed and overfunding as he went through a spirited campaign that culminated, not in giving fancy presents to the people paying for his work, but in donations of increasingly large donations of books to school libraries and the placing of his work in the creative commons for all to enjoy. Philanthropy as well? Be still, my beating heart!

As you go through this charming, fully illustrated version of Hamlet, you can play as Hamlet, Ophelia, or King Hamlet…in which case, sorry! You die on the first place. THEN START WITH THE HAUNTING. Skull icons indicate choices that will bring about the ending we know and love from onstage; if you choose other options, Hamlet might invent indoor plumbing! Ophelia might get Hamlet’s butt off of the couch and into swordfight practice! And King Hamlet might try to win back his Gertrude with nice poetry and respectful dialogue! WHO KNOWS?

There’s even a play…of the book…of the first play…put on YouTube by a crew of ex-pats in Korea, Theatre In Busan. Which you can view here! During the live stream, people got to vote on their choices onstage just like we would at home reading the book. That’s all over now, of course, but you can see some of the awesome ways things went on the small screen.

I leave you with a couple questions:

a) What is the one thing you’d change about Hamlet if you had such a book? Or could yell out during a production? Or at least the biggest (we know there are lots of things that need fixin’!)

b) Kickstarter let someone with a good idea turn it into a major project that ultimately made $580,905.00 for someone to do something cool. What’s a Shakespeare project that, with a little help from your friend The Internet, you would love to put out?

And last but not least, in the world of To Be Or Not To Be, Ophelia is a smart cookie with a science background while Hamlet studies…y’know…arts…? I leave you with a glimpse: