Instead of fumbling with pen and paper to memorize monologues, actors can now access Shakespearean soliloquies in one place: their smartphones.
Last month, Terry Torres, ‘09, released Yorick, a mobile app designed to help actors find and prepare Shakespearean texts for auditions.
Torres, a performing arts graduate, said the app’s target audience is students, especially from Emerson. He said it’s particularly useful for young actors.
“When I was trying to get into school, [auditioning] was not something I knew how to get started on,” Torres said. “I hope anyone in that position can get Yorick, start from what they know, and then look around and find something that’s better.”
Yorick allows users to edit monologues by adding line breaks, actions, and analysis. Torres said that young actors shouldn’t be afraid to use those features to change the text to suit their needs.
“If someone interjects, or there’s an idea that comes up in a monologue that doesn’t jive with the tone you’re trying to get across, I think you should feel free to just get rid of it,” Torres said. “When you do an audition, you’re not putting on a play. You’re performing yourself for other people.”
The app’s name comes from the iconic scene in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which the titular character holds up the skull of a court jester he once knew, and utters the words, “Alas, poor Yorick!”
Torres said that making the app has been a two year process. He said the only expense was a $99 Apple Developer Program membership, which allowed him to put his work on the App Store. To fill Yorick’s database, he had to read all of Shakespeare’s comedies, tragedies, and histories—37 plays in total.
“I’ll admit that there was a lot of skimming involved to some extent to get to the good stuff,” Torres said. “But I’d like to think I’ll come as close as anyone short of a graduate student to having read them all.”
Yorick contains over 1,000 monologues from all of Shakespeare's plays and is available on Apple’s App Store for $1.29. Users can search by gender, character, action, tone, or length. Monologues are also organized by tags like “daughter, noble, or manipulating,” and actors can add their own tags to help refine Yorick’s search engine. Once they find a match, they can enlarge the text, edit it to their liking, and begin practicing.
Torres is married to Lauren Schumacher, ‘09, a visual and media arts graduate. Schumacher, a graphic designer, came up with the idea for the logo: a skull in the shape of a speech bubble.
Torres, who lives in Boston, works for the Freedom Trail Foundation as a costumed tour guide. He said that his primary motivation for making Yorick was learning how to program and that he used internet resources like Lynda to do so.
“I’ll admit, first and foremost it was for me,” Torres said. “But I’d like to think that, in coming up with the idea, I was able to serve others too.”
Torres said that he had an interest in programming, specifically in video games, many years before coming to Emerson. He was initially concerned that it would require a lot of mathematical knowledge.
“[But] when you’re working on something like this, the math kind of does itself,” Torres said. “It actually has more to do with logic, solving problems, and spacial reasoning. That’s a big takeaway from this: You don’t have to be good at math to teach yourself how to program.”
Before Yorick, Torres made two other apps that are available for free. The first is a trivia game called History Lessons, and the second is Yatta, an achievement tracker that lets users turn any social gathering into a friendly competition.
Torres said that he learned a lot about Shakespeare’s lesser known works throughout the process. He said before developing Yorick, his favorite play was Hamlet, but now it is Titus Andronicus.
“My hope is that people will try to go beyond the stuff they already know, like Hamlet,” Torres said. “I think that’s pretty important for actors and people who are trying to cast actors, because I’m sure a lot of them are sick of someone walking in and saying ‘To be or not to be.’”
Mikayla Bishop, a junior performing arts major and outreach coordinator for Emerson Shakespeare Society, said that looking for a monologue to audition with can be intimidating.
“I think that’s the one thing that really deters people from even coming out to audition,” Bishop said. “They don’t even know where to look for a piece of classical text. Now it’s all right there on their phone for them.”
Bishop said she likes the app’s organization and sees the low price tag as reasonable because Shakespeare's plays and monologue books can be pricey.
“This is great because the monologues are already picked out of the text for you,” Bishop said. “You don’t have to go and read the play and search for a monologue that works. I definitely think this is something that our board would love.”