Skip to main content
Folger Story

Experiencing Shakespeare in real life

How the Folger’s theater and library expand imaginations

Richard Bradford, the talented eight-year-old who played Mamillius and Time in Folger Theatre’s production of The Winter’s Tale this fall, and his mother, Elizabeth Bradford, who spent her junior year at the Folger as a high school fellow, share what the Folger means to them.

FOLGER: What did you think when your son Richard was cast in The Winter’s Tale? What’s it been like to go through this process with him?

ELIZABETH: When Richard was cast in The Winter’s Tale I was elated—mostly because this is his debut on the DC stage as an actor. In addition, it was very lovely that I had an opportunity to return to this space and see it behind the scenes. It’s been a thrilling experience for me to see my son blossom as he’s exploring his new career with acting.

RICHARD: When I got cast, I felt really excited. I did not know what was going to happen at all. I’m like, “What’s Shakespeare?”  I was just diving headfirst.

It’s like the themes of the play—hope, joy, fear, the birthday party, the statue scene, the pajamas scene—I just like to see people all gather here for a purpose. In the playbill, it says, “Our artists love to hear your responses.” And we do, we really love to hear their responses. Also, sometimes you make new friends, dear friends.

My mom asked me if I want to do this again, and my response was, “Is that really a question? That’s an automatic ‘Yes.’” I want to do The Winter’s Tale again. I like Camillo—or Florizell may be good, because that’s the next age I think I could have.

ELIZABETH: His mother thinks he should be Hamlet.

RICHARD: I really love Shakespeare and I want to do it again.

Video interview

Watch our interview with Richard Bradford and his mother, Elizabeth Bradford.

FOLGER: Elizabeth, tell us what it was like to be a high school fellow at the Folger.

ELIZABETH: As a fellow in high school at the Folger, we had an opportunity to meet with students from across the city. We sat down and discussed different plays by Shakespeare. We also had the opportunity to experience Shakespeare in real life. They gave us tickets to see Coriolanus with Bradley Whitford— and I was extremely excited that we could experience the theater in person. It’s such a lovely space, very small and intimate and you really have a great feeling about what it is you’re going to see and what they’re going to be able to tell you.

Having had the opportunity to be a fellow here at the Folger broadened my experience with Shakespeare. You’re given a certain play that you study when you’re in school—everyone knows Romeo and Juliet—but having an opportunity to explore beyond that gave me Shakespeare love.

I did continue to study Shakespeare when I went to college. You know, I’ve always appreciated language, and really interesting ways to express yourself. One of the things that is really great about Shakespeare is the way things are said lyrically. It’s a beautiful presentation of the basic human condition that we all experience.

The thing that was the best about being a high school fellow at the Folger was really having an opportunity to not only talk with other students who were interested in Shakespeare but also to have an opportunity, as an African American, to be in a position to not only demonstrate that in this very diverse city in which we live there are students like me who appreciate Shakespeare but also to give them my interpretation of the experiences that I’ve had.

Richard Bradford experiments with operating a recreation of an early printing press, which will be displayed in the Folger's new Shakespeare Exhibition Hall to show how the First Folio was created four centuries ago. Photo by Lloyd Wolf.

FOLGER: What do you wish people knew about the Folger?

ELIZABETH: What I wish people knew about the Folger is that we’re here! Having the opportunity to go through and see all the old books, also to see that theater and the fact that it gives you an idea of what theaters may have been like when Shakespeare was putting on plays because of the ambience and the way that it’s set up. It’s just a beautiful space. Don’t get me started on the lobby, now in front of the theater. Stunning.

RICHARD: I like the fact that the Folger goes for all the copies. Like, so close to me are the First Folios. They’re in this building. They’re in the Folger. And the fact that the Folger houses all these books—and I love books… well, that’s a whole different story—I love that they love to collect and that people may love to read if they come to the Folger. This is a theater, but there’s so much more.