2021 Folger Gala

We are pleased to invite guests from across the country and around the world to join us for a complimentary virtual evening exploring the sonnet, an art form that can stand alone, evolve, and inspire new works. Stream the 2021 Folger Gala for free on YouTube, Facebook, or folger.edu, and explore additional commentary and resources related to gala performances.

The humanities have helped to sustain us during a long a difficult year and while we can’t be together physically, we will again gather virtually to celebrate the humanities and the Folger’s work at the 2021 Virtual Folger Gala.

About the Performers

Cyrus Chestnut is a composer, pianist and educator. Cyrus began honing his craft as a sideman with a number of legendary musicians including Branford Marsalis, Regina Carter, Chick Corea, Isaac Hayes, Kathleen Battle, Dizzy Gillespie and Aretha Franklin. As a bandleader, his work has been featured in films such as Robert Altman’s Kansas City (in which Chestnut also made his big screen debut portraying a Count Basie-inspired pianist) and Piano Grand: A Smithsonian Celebration. Cyrus is currently a master instructor of jazz piano and improvisation at Howard University.

Richard Clifford is a celebrated actor and director in both the UK and the US. His work at the Folger includes Measure+Dido, The Merchant of Venice, The Tempest, Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, and Milton’s Comus with Folger Consort. He has directed numerous Folger Theatre productions, including Amadeus, Mary Stuart, The School for Scandal, The Game of Love and Chance, The Clandestine Marriage, Elizabeth the Queen (for which he received a Helen Hayes nomination), All’s Well That Ends Well, and She Stoops to Conquer.

Terrance Hayes is a poet and educator. His numerous volumes include American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, Lighthead (National Book Award in Poetry), Wind in a Box (Pushcart Prize), and Muscular Music (Kate Tufts Discovery Award). To Float in the Space Between, his collection of texts and drawings inspired by the work of Etheridge Knight, has garnered the Poetry Foundation’s 2019 Pegasus Award in Poetry Criticism. He has received many honors and awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation and, in 2014, a MacArthur fellowship.

Derek Jacobi is one of the world’s most respected and beloved theater and film actors. He is one of only two actors ever to receive two Knighthoods (along with Sir Lawrence Olivier).  His many film credits include Murder on the Orient Express, Cinderella, Hamlet, Henry V, The King’s Speech, Ironclad, Hereafter, Anonymous, and many others. His extensive television work has garnered him Emmy, BAFTA, and Golden Globe nominations. As a devoted actor of the plays of Shakespeare, he has performed in nearly 80 productions from Hamlet to King Lear

Hugo Medrano, Co-Founder & Producing Artistic Director at GALA Hispanic Theatre, has directed over 165 productions and produced numerous shows, from classical to experimental, to original musicals since founding GALA in 1976. A native of Argentina, Medrano studied theatre in Marid, Spain, where he later formed his own theatre company, and has since achieved particular recognition for his innovative direction of the Spanish classics. In 2000, he received a Helen Hayes Award nomination for Outstanding Director for GALA’s production of La dama boba. 2006),. Medrano is also a principal actor in the company, winning the 1994 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actor for his performance in GALA’s production of El baso de la mujer arena—the only Spanish-speaking performance ever so honored. Medrano’s contributions toward the preservation and promotion of Hispanic culture and Latino performing art forms have also been recognized:  Immigrant Achievement Award from the American Immigration Council (2014), the Mayor’s Arts Award “Visionary” Award (2014); Order of Queen Isabella II, conferred to Hugo and Rebecca Medrano by the King of Spain Juan Carlos I, for their outstanding promotion of Spanish culture in the United States (2007); the Excellence in Entrepreneurship and Community Involvement Award from the Latino Economic Development Corporation (2000); and the Founders Award from the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington (1998).  He was named a Washingtonian of the Year in 2000.

GALA (Grupo de Artistas LatinoAmericanos) Hispanic Theatre is a National Center for Latino Performing Arts in the nation's capital. Since 1976, GALA has been promoting and sharing the Latino arts and cultures with a diverse audience, creating work that speaks to communities today, and preserving the rich Hispanic heritage for generations that follow. By developing and producing works that explore the breadth of Latino performing arts, GALA provides opportunities for the Latino artist, educates youth, and engages the entire community in an exchange of ideas and perspectives. Featuring performances by Guadalupe Campos, Carlos Castillo, Omar D. Cruz, and Luz Nicolas.


Make a Gift

Explore Additional Commentary and Resources


Honorary Gala Co-Chairs

Dame Karen Pierce DCMG, The British Ambassador, and Mr. Charles Roxburgh



Lead Sponsors
Vint and Sigrid Cerf
J. May Liang and James Lintott

Prime Sponsors
Susan Sachs Goldman

Altieri logoBecker & Frondorf logoDAndre Willis Consulting logo

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Major Sponsors
D. Jarrett and Nora Arp
Florence and Neal Cohen
Louis and Bonnie Cohen
Lisa Fuentes and Thomas Cohen
Shakespeare’s Globe, USA
The Honorable Eugene and Dr. Carol Ludwig
The Honorable John D. Macomber
Jacqueline Badger Mars
Timothy and Linda O'Neill
Gail Kern Paster

Philip Deutch and Marne Levine
John and Dianne Keppler
Scott and Elizabeth Vance
Kathie and Mike Williams

Gilbane logo

Maygene and Steve Daniels
Nancy Ebb and Gary Ford
Emily and Michael Eig
Maxine Isaacs
Derek and Leora Kaufman
Leander and Stephanie McCormick-Goodhart
Robin and Roger Millay
Terence R. Murphy, O.B.E. and Patricia Sherman Murphy
Carl and Undine Nash
Darcy and Andrew Nussbaum
Ramie Targoff and Stephen Greenblatt
Mary Augusta and George D. Thomas
Nyla and William G. Witmore

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Behind the Scenes

Cyrus Chestnut and Duke Ellington

Watch Cyrus Chestnut introduce his performance of "Father Time" for the 2021 Folger Gala (YouTube)

Listen to Cyrus Chestnut’s “Father Time,” composed for the Folger in 2016 (Spotify)

Duke Ellington's "Such Sweet Thunder"


Explore Shakespeare's Sonnets

Listen to Shakespeare Unlimited podcast episodes about sonnets:

Read Shakespeare's sonnets on The Folger Shakespeare site

See images in the Folger collection of the1609 quarto edition of the sonnets

Take a quiz to see how well you know Sonnet 18: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"


Poetry Featured in the 2021 Gala

Shakespeare's Sonnets

Wanda Coleman: American Sonnet #54

dearest cousin,

  forgive this ruined narrative begging the first
element of creation. last time i was here i was here.
now i wonder what, exactly, are the components of my
invisible spectrum? sun-ra rising.

   i went for a reading of palms to rediscover
disappointment. “better an almost-was,” said the gypsy,
”than a never-was.” her peculiar conjure left me staring at
my naked brown feet for hours. when reverie broke it was
near dawn, mist had occluded the volcano and i found
myself old, alone sans shelter from the ever-blessed heat.

   this note is sent perchance you’ve wondered what
befell one adventuresome one solongago lost, this missive
in an empty ron rico bottle set adrift on a sea of flute
music—this repetitious rendering of pain—for on my
one-palm island dwells no such beast as joy

(Callaloo, vol. 19 no. 3, 1996, p. 764. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/cal.1996.0111)

Terrance Hayes: American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin

I lock you in an American sonnet that is part prison,
Part panic closet, a little room in a house set aflame.
I lock you in a form that is part music box, part meat
Grinder to separate the song of the bird from the bone.
I lock your persona in a dream-inducing sleeper hold
While your better selves watch from the bleachers.
I make you both gym & crow here. As the crow
You undergo a beautiful catharsis trapped one night
In the shadows of the gym. As the gym, the feel of crow-
Shit dropping to your floors is not unlike the stars
Falling from the pep rally posters on your walls.
I make you a box of darkness with a bird in its heart.
Voltas of acoustics, instinct & metaphor. It is not enough
To love you. It is not enough to want you destroyed.

(“I lock you in an American sonnet that is part prison.” American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin, p. 11. Penguin Books, 2018.)

Gala Hispanic Theatre: Readings


Watch GALA Hispanic Theatre Co-Founder and Producing Artistic Director Hugo Medrano introduce the sonnets of Lope de Vega

Varios efectos del amor
Lope De Vega

Desmayarse, atreverse, estar furioso,
áspero, tierno, liberal, esquivo,
alentado, mortal, difunto, vivo,
leal, traidor, cobarde y animoso,

no hallar fuera del bien centro y reposo,
mostrarse alegre, triste, humilde, altivo,
enojado, valiente, fugitiv,o
satisfecho, ofendido, receloso,

huir el rostro al claro desengaño,
beber veneno por licor suave,
olvidar el provecho, amar el daño,

creer que un cielo en un infierno cabe,
dar la vida y el alma a un desengaño,
esto es amor, quien lo probó lo sabe.

Translation by David Rosenthal: Various Effects of Love

To be fainthearted, to be bold, possessed,
abrasive, tender, open, isolated,
spirited, dying, dead, invigorated,
loyal, treacherous, venturesome, repressed.

Not to find, without your lover, rest.
To seem happy, sad, haughty, understated,
emboldened, fugitive, exasperated,
satisfied, offended, doubt-obsessed.

To face away from disillusionment,
to swallow venom like liqueur, and quell
all thoughts of gain, embracing discontent;

to believe a heaven lies within a hell,
to give your soul to disillusionment;
that’s love, as all who’ve tasted know too well.

Soneto de repente
Lope de Vega
Un soneto me manda hacer Violante
que en mi vida me he visto en tanto aprieto;
catorce versos dicen que es soneto;
burla burlando van los tres delante.

Yo pensé que no hallara consonante,
y estoy a la mitad de otro cuarteto;
mas si me veo en el primer terceto,
no hay cosa en los cuartetos que me espante.

Por el primer terceto voy entrando,
y parece que entré con pie derecho,
pues fin con este verso le voy dando.

Ya estoy en el segundo, y aun sospecho
que voy los trece versos acabando;
contad si son catorce, y está hecho.

(Garrison, David. “English Translations of Lope de Vega's "Soneto de repente."” Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos, Invierno 1995, Vol. 19, No. 2, p. 321.)

Translation by John Frederick Nims: Sonnet Right Off The Bat
She wants a sonnet from me, instantly!
Now here's a jam I wasn't in before!
A sonnet's fourteen lines, I hear - no more,
No less. (I really buffaloed those three!)

You'd think the rimes would have me up a tree,
But here I'm halfway through the second four.
If I can tally two and up the score
The octave's a dead duck. No stopping me!

Well look at Lope entering Line Nine!
I must have knocked it off in nothing flat
And breezed half through the sestet. Doing fine

Nearing the finish. As to where I'm at,
I rather think it's - hmmm - the thirteenth line.
Here's fourteen. Care to count them? And that's that.

Watch GALA Hispanic Theatre Co-Founder and Producing Artistic Director Hugo Medrano introduce Neruda's Romeo y Julieta

Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, scene v
William Shakespeare

ROMEO, taking Juliet’s hand
If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
O then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do.
They pray: grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.
Then move not while my prayer’s effect I take.

Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, scene iv
Translation by Pablo Neruda

ROMEO (A Julieta).
Si yo profano con mi mano indigna
este santuario, mi castigo es éste:
¡mis labios peregrinos se disponen
a borrar el contacto con un beso!
¡Injusto con tu mano, peregrino
eres, porque ella se mostró devota!
No olvides que los santos tienen manos
y que se tocan una mano y otra
y palma a palma en el sagrado beso
de los romeros en la romería.
¿No tienen labios, santos y romeros?
¡Sólo para rezar, ay, peregrino!
¡Entonces, dulce santa, que los labios
hagan también lo que las manos hacen!
¡Ellos ruegan, concédeles la gracia
y así no desesperen de su fe!
¡Los santos no se mueven, aunque otorguen!
¡Entonces no te muevas, que mis ruegos van a obtener la gracia que esperaban! ¡Ahora por la gracia de tus labios
quedan mis labios libres de pecado!

(Shakespeare, William. Romeo y Julieta/ Romeo And Juliet. Pablo Neruda and Pedro Henríquez Ureña, trans. Losada, 1998. Act 1, scene 5.)