This spring, the high school’s Drama Society made history by using AI to assist in the writing and creation of their interpretation of The Merry Wives of Windsor, originally written by Shakespeare. But can AI match the level of complexity that exists in Shakespearean literature? 

On Thursday, May 9, and Saturday, May 11, the Drama Society performed The Merry Wives of Windsor. Initially abridged to eight scenes from the original Shakespearean version, the play was then altered by cast members and Kara Sullivan, Drama teacher and director of the play. 

“The fun part about Shakespeare is recreating it and making it modern,” says Sullivan. “So I was trying to find something different in a fun way for people to access the content.” 

As auditions and rehearsals began, Sullivan landed on an interpretation following the makeup of The Office, a popular mockumentary show showcasing an office cast revolving around individualized interviews. Sullivan used ChatGPT to generate this slant and to write the first few creative scenes. In the end, two casts were created: one for The Office cast, which included producers, directors, and writers, and another for the Shakespearean roles. 

Pictured are both The Office and the Shakespearean characters on stage. A projection was used behind all scenes to portray the mockumentary approach. Photo courtesy of Kara Sullivan. 

To begin, Sullivan asked AI, “How would I spinoff Merry Wives of Windsor to be…” 

However, as students and Sullivan began curating the AI-generated scenes with  the original Shakespearean words, they faced obstacles. For some, the writing of scenes for the first time didn’t come as easily, and others found it difficult to cohesively connect the two texts. 

“The challenge is you have half the actors doing Shakespeare lines, which are objectively known to be of very high quality with a lot to digest. Then you have the other half doing the ChatGPT lines which are very cheesy, based on a lot of stereotypes of character,” said Madison Prowda ’24. 

For some, experimenting with ChatGPT and a modern twist on this play was a fruitful experience, but others found Shakespeare to be better on its own. 

“These lines can be fun to play, but for me, I didn’t enjoy playing into the stock character that was created by the AI,” said Madison Prowda ’24. 

Prowda began as one of the two producers in The Office cast, but eventually let go of the position due to the complications of AI among other obstacles. During rehearsal, balancing the time of the two casts, as well as relinquishing the classic Shakespearean touch as a means to make the speech more accessible proved too difficult. 

Many agree with Prowda. Having a split focus was challenging for both sides, and many had various experiences due to the differences between The Office and Shakespearean characters. In the end, it’s apparent AI can not meet the standards of Shakespeare.

“They [the AI scenes] do have the cliche, emotionally hollow tone to them,” said Ciara Caffrey ’25, one of the wives. 

As rehearsals continued, Caffrey grew more comfortable with the material. She hoped that the transition between the Shakespeare and production crew scenes would be seamless for viewers and that the audience would see the cast having fun with the material. 

“I think one of the most fun aspects of rehearsal [was] a lot of the improv involved with the integration of Shakespeare and the meta aspect of filming the TV show.” 

Most hiccups came during rehearsals though, and moving parts continued until the final few days of preparation before opening night. 

“I think this idea [had] a lot of potential, but I was worried that it might be more than we could handle to produce,” said Natalia Medina ’26, who played the other wife alongside Caffrey. “Just all the moving parts, going meta, in general, is very difficult.” 

For most of the new actors, or those who hadn’t experimented with a comedic and dramatic mix, the rehearsals were equally as difficult but also provided a more engaging way to jump into theater. The mix of comedy and improvisation as well as it being the final play for seniors made for an interactive and hands-on experience for all those involved. 

“Acting is some people’s real element, so just seeing that is cool. And seeing the behind-the-scenes has been super interesting,” said Katherine Xu ’27. “I’ve seen the productions, but I’ve never seen all the work that goes into it.” 

As someone who hadn’t been around Shakespeare much prior to the play, she found initial difficulty following along. But Xu learned as she went. 

“Once you have been around it [Shakespeare] a lot, you sort of understand what’s going on,” said Xu. 

For those involved with the production cast, or The Office cast, interpreting Shakespeare has been a learning experience. Not only did these members write many of their own lines, but they were also expected to use improvisation on opening night to represent a production setting. 

“We’ve had productions branch off before, but nothing really like this,” said Alexa Peak ’24. “It [was] new territory.” 

During these scenes, the camera was continually moving around and Shakespearean characters would often look at the camera. Interviews were also included in between scenes as a nod to Shakespeare’s classic ‘asides’ that many characters had. These interviews also allowed for characters in The Merry Wives of Windsor to explore their roles and share insider emotions with the audience. 

“It was cool to see it all come together since a lot of it is open to interpretation,” said Peak. “You could do improvised things within the scenes and have funny moments.” 

In the end, an attempt at experimentation with Shakespeare material resulted in an engaging and fun way of approaching Shakespeare. 

“I wanted to use AI because there’s so many conspiracy theories about Shakespeare and how could one person have written all of this in the iambic pentameter? How could they have written so many things that we say today?,” said Sullivan. “I decided to throw the AI component in there as a commentary as to whether Shakespeare really wrote his plays.” 

Though AI couldn’t replicate Shakespeare, or come close to it, this combination allowed for an accessible and engaging way to digest the complicated and dense works of Shakespeare.

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