King Lear (and other Shakespeare Scores)

by | Sep 25, 2018 | Artwork #1: Score


King Lear:
Find one object of value
…or utter worthlessness
Offer it to a group of people
Tell them only one of them will get it
Close your eyes
Watch the darkness
Let them make their case
Cover your ears
Listen to the thunder
Let them make their case
Give the object to whoever is worthy
Wait for the consequences

Documentation of Score Test:

I do have footage of the first part and sound for the second but it’s good I’m not showing those specifically it’s not high quality stuff.

I also haven’t documented the consequences because I’m still waiting.

Artist Statement:

Shakespeare has been a huge part of my life for a while. My family works in theater, and they have worked at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for all of my teenage life. Shakespeare plays are to me like the Bible is to many: A text of somewhat profound, often problematic, stories and themes that I use to contextualize and understand culture.

When I encounter a new artistic medium. I create theoretical adaptations of Shakespeare plays suited for that medium. The tragedies, in particular, possess simple themes that can test how a medium best presents emotion. The same thing happened with scores as has happened with party card games and visual novels… the only difference this time is that I had an excuse to make it.

I first heard of scores in some random YouTube video essay on art history a year back. By the time I first saw the syllabus for Experimental Game Design (about a month and a half ago) I kinda knew what this assignment was going to be so I got the idea to make Shakespeare Scores. The only fully fledged idea I’ve had since then was for “Hamlet:”

Spend a year pretending to go insane
Do not go insane

I came up with the rest of the scores after reading Grapefruit so the language and rhythm of those is influenced by Ono’s style. The humor of Grapefruit also stuck around so I wasn’t afraid to make blunt, short, and paradoxical scores.

Romeo and Juliet:
Spend 42 hours pretending to be dead
Don’t tell your loved one’s

One part of Ono’s work, and the entirety of Fluxus, that inspired me to go with a theatrical theme is the Fluxus’ grounding in music. When I see scores, I interpret them as a rule set or a script, not as the score they were inspired from. Music and musical history was referenced throughout Fluxus work but no theater. There was a conductor but no director, an orchestra but no ensemble, a Mozart but no Moliere. I’m more comfortable in theatrical terms… so I did my own scores in a theatrical frame.

There are also games. Specifically for King Lear, being a play about miscommunication, it’s score felt the most like a party game. Many party games are about inhibiting communication so, although not by conscious choice, the King Lear score runs like a game of charades.

One final influence. I mentioned video essays earlier here, but I want to stress how important they are to me. I’ve seen King Lear twice but after the second viewing I would have a hard time explaining what the ideas presented quite were. To get to the one line “King Lear is about miscommunication” I needed to watch this video on a not so faithful adaptation of King Lear. A simple inspiration, but important nonetheless.

Some More Shakespeare Scores:

Julius Caesar
Get 1 million people together
Tell them to find a person named Cinna and kill them
Wait a few minutes
Tell them to not kill anyone, especially you

Put on a production of Othello
Don’t do Act V, Scene II
Play a game of Othello instead

Timon of Athens
Give your money to:
The Arts
The Government
The Poor
Host the largest party for your budget
Your budget is your entire net worth
Notice who is only your friend because of money
Host a party for those people only
Give them rocks to eat
Give everything to nothing
Move to the woods
Find gold
Give the gold to passerbys
Overthrow the government
Die alone

Titus Andronicus
This score was sponsored by the American Association of Meat Processors