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Eric Johnson ('95)
JMU alum Eric Johnson sought to make one of the world's best playwrights more accessible, and from an unlikely place -- the Middle East. For his master's thesis in English from George Mason University, Eric wanted to create a free, powerful, user-friendly site for anyone interested in Shakespeare's works -- students, scholars, thespians, and general readers. He didn't know when he started the project that much of the work would be completed in Kuwait, after being redeployed when the first phase of the Iraq War concluded in 2003. The change in locations didn't deter him. Using his laptop computer, he began the laborious task of formatting texts, setting up the database and programming the Web site Open Source Shakespeare. Currently, the site holds all 37 plays, 154 sonnets and five poems. Users can search by genre, lines of text or characters. Also, it has a complete concordance of 860,000 words. The site receives more than 15,000 visitors a month, and Eric receives appreciative e-mail from people around the world who have used the site and appreciated its user-friendly approach. "Ultimately, I would like to donate Open Source Shakespeare to a foundation or an educational institution," Eric says, hoping to further aid both Shakespeare scholars and enthusiasts.
"I always appreciated that the faculty in my major (history) and minors (art history and theatre) gave students the freedom to work on things that interested them."