The Wonder of Will: On the Road

Celebrating 400 Years of Shakespeare

During The Wonder of Will: 400 Years of Shakespeare, hundreds of thousands of people participated in "on the road" Shakespeare events sponsored by the Folger. Some visitors drove for hours to see the First Folio of Shakespeare, which toured all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC. Others came to the touring Folger exhibition America's Shakespeare: The Bard Goes West in Los Angeles. Still more saw productions of new works in New York or California—or a special Folger exhibition tied to a production in Brooklyn. And many delighted in a newly conceived interactive solo project, Gravedigger's Tale, directed by Robert Richmond and starring Louis Butelli.

First Folio Tour

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the Folger Shakespeare Library sent 18 of its First Folios on a yearlong tour to all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC. This traveling exhibition, First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare (Jan 4, 2016 – Jan 8, 2017), was seen by more than half a million people at public libraries, universities, museums, a historical society, and a theater. Everywhere the First Folios traveled, communities greeted them with excitement, honor, and pride, underscoring the deep connection they feel to Shakespeare and his plays—and illustrating his broad reach and relevance across American culture.

Learn more about the First Folio Tour  |  Watch the First Folio Tour trailer  |  Explore our First Folio podcast playlist

Gravedigger’s Tale

Folger Theatre created a performance piece inspired by the First Folio exhibition and seen in 11 states, at tour stops as well as other institutions commemorating the 400th anniversary year. Gravedigger’s Tale, directed by Robert Richmond and starring Louis Butelli, featured the gravedigger from Shakespeare’s Hamlet in an interactive retelling of the play using words Shakespeare’s words and audience interactions. Why Hamlet? At each tour stop, the First Folio was open to the Danish prince’s famous “to be or not to be” speech.

Sample Gravedigger's Tale with a short video  |  Actor Louis Butelli blogs about touring Gravedigger's Tale

The Wonder of Will: Early and New Music Celebrating Shakespeare

Folger Consort, the Folger's early music ensemble-in-residence, traveled to New York City to perform with the renowned English vocal group Stile Antico at Corpus Christi Church, Jan 24, 2016. The Wonder of Will: Early and New Music Celebrating Shakespeare featured songs and dances from Shakespeare's plays, along with music by contemporaries William Byrd and John Dowland.

King and Country: Treasures from the Folger

The Folger partnered with Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in New York and the Royal Shakespeare Company to present an exhibition to accompany the RSC’s King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings (Mar 24 – May 1, 2016), an epic cycle of Richard II, Henry IV Parts I & II, and Henry V. The exhibition enabled thousands of theatergoers at BAM to see rare Shakespeare quartos, promptbooks, and costume designs from the Folger collection.

Measure + Dido

Folger Consort staged its world premiere of Measure + Dido in Napa Valley, California, Sep 24 – 25, 2016 before bringing it to the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, Oct 1. The production, which starred Derek Jacobi and Richard Clifford, combined dramatic readings of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure with excerpts from Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.

America’s Shakespeare: The Bard Goes West

America’s Shakespeare, a Folger exhibition about Shakespeare’s influence on American history and culture, took on a second life in Los Angeles as America’s Shakespeare: The Bard Goes West (Nov 17, 2016 – Feb 26, 2017). Presented by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles at the Los Angeles Public Library, the exhibition took America’s Shakespeare as its core and added items that highlight Shakespeare’s legacy in California, from gold mining camps to the early film industry.

Explore America's Shakespeare blog series  |  Take a podcast tour of the exhibition with Curator Stephen Dickey