The Reading Room

A new play festival inspired by and in conversation with Shakespeare

Playwrights: Lauren Gunderson |Al Letson | Reynaldo Piniella & Emily Lyon | Malik Work & Karen Ann Daniels
Directors: Nicole Brewer | Eddie DeHais | Tatiana Pandiani | Devin E. Haqq
January 19 – 21, 2023
This event has passed. Stay tuned for the announcement for the 2024 Reading Room.

Women's empowerment. Violence, politics and civil rights. Conflicts of racial identities. The generational toll of the justice system. This is Shakespeare?

Kick off the new year with a weekend of incredible art and theater with Folger Theatre and The Reading Room - a can't miss festival featuring powerful performances of four bold new works inspired by, in response to, and in conversation with the Bard himself.

Brought to life by an unrivaled group of dynamic actors, the original plays and performances are conducted by distinguished playwrights - Lauren Gunderson, Al Letson, Reynaldo Piniella & Emily Lyon, Malik Work& Karen Ann Daniels, and directors - Nicole Brewer, Eddie DeHais, Tatiana Pandiani and Devin E. Haqq. Each reading will be followed by a moderated conversation with the playwrights and questions from the audience. 

Hamlet 

bilingual adaption by Reynaldo Piniella and Emily Lyon, translation by Christin Eve Cato,  directed by Tatiana Pandiani, Cynthia Santos-DeCure, voice and text coach

Thursday, January 19, 2023 at 7:30pm

>> Q & A: Reynaldo Piniella and Emily Lyon on their new bilingual adaptation of Hamlet

A radical bilingual reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet created by Reynaldo Piniella and Emily Lyon, with translation by Christin Eve Cato, takes us to the streets of El Barrio as Shakespeare’s text is infused with the Spanish spoken in the streets of present-day New York City. Hamlet is a Black and Latinx prince whose sense of identity has been fractured by the loss of his Black father. Using Spanish to express and explore his sense of loss, our Hamlet ponders, “Ser o no ser, esa es la cuestión.” Tempted once again to continue the cycle of revenge, we are asked to ponder, “how can we find healing in the face of tragedy?” 

With Classical Theatre of Harlem

Our Verse in Time to Come 

by Malik Work and Karen Ann Daniels, in collaboration with and directed by Devin E. Haqq, John Proctor III, dramaturg, Danica Rodriguez, casting director

Friday, January 20, 2023 at 7:30pm

An aging emcee, affectionately known as SOS, gets out of prison after 25 years only to be diagnosed with early onset dementia. Realizing it’s his last chance to reconnect with his children, he engages an old family friend and legal ally to arrange his estate and ensure his now grown twins, Vi and Will, accept it before his memory slips away for good. Reuniting to sort out their father’s inheritance, the estranged siblings uncover more than they bargained for. Along their journey, they meet storytellers who hold pieces of the puzzle that unlock their hearts and offer renewed connection to their heritage, community and father. Inspired by the works and words of Shakespeare, Our Verse in Time to Come, bridges the past with the present through verse, song and memory, and interrogates whose stories remain and whose role it is to ensure they survive.

Commissioned by Folger Shakespeare Libarary to commemorate the 400th Anniversary of the printing of Shakespeare's First Folio 

Julius X 

by Al Letson, directed by Nicole Brewer, John Proctor III, dramaturg

Saturday, January 21, 2023 at 2:00pm*

Julius X is a re-envisioning of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar that puts a whole new spin on the assassinated leader and those who conspired against him. Set in 1965, Julius X amalgamates the lives of Julius Caesar and slain civil rights leader Malcolm X, weaving the text of Shakespeare with bits of African mythology and performance poetry.

“IN TRUE MIX-’EM-UP FASHION, Al Letson Jr. has taken the violence, politics, and otherworldliness of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and smashed it into the history and mythology of Malcolm X." – Baltimore City Paper

A Room in the Castle 

by Lauren Gunderson, directed by Eddie DeHais, Michele Osherow, dramaturg

Saturday, January 21, 2023 at 7:30pm*

>> Q & A: Lauren Gunderson on the her new play about the women of Hamlet

A Room in the Castle finds Ophelia, her handmaid, and her Queen Gertrude on the other end of a wild prince's antics and realizing just how dangerous life in this castle has become. How does a woman survive the court of Denmark - whether an ingenue or a queen?  How can any of these women survive the mayhem heading directly for them? As Ophelia withstands Hamlet's assaults and insults, Gertrude comes to see how far gone her son truly is. What is she willing to risk to save Ophelia and herself if it means turning against her problematic child? A mediation on women helping women, what mothering a potential madman means and what responsibility generations of feminists have to one another, A Room in the Castle rebrands the stories of the women of Shakespeare's Hamlet  into a drama with music and defiant hope for the future.

With Cincinnati Shakespeare Company


The Reading Room Conversations

Anti-Racism and Shakespeare
Saturday, January 21 at 11am  


Nicole Brewer, Kaja Dunn, and Dr. John Proctor III discuss how anti-racism approaches can be applied to theatrical practices and Shakespearean performances. 

Lauren Gunderson and Al Letson*
Saturday, January 21 at 5:30pm  


Leading contemporary playwrights Lauren Gunderson and Al Letson share their creative processes and apporaches to Shakespeare adaptation in a lively conversation with Matré Grant. 

Each reading is followed by a conversation with the playwrights, directors, members of the press, and scholars. 

* This event or performance will have an ASL interpreter.

Who's Who

Joan Chen, Our Verse in Time to Come
Rosencrantz, Hamlet
Vi, Our Verse in Time to Come
Translator and Horatio, Hamlet
Tatiana, A Room in the Castle
Black, Our Verse in Time to Come
Will, Our Verse in Time to Come
Cassius, Julius X
Gertrude, Hamlet
Addara, Julius X
Ophelia, Hamlet
Guildenstern, Hamlet
Laertes, Hamlet
S.O.S., Our Verse in Time to Come
Mark Anthony, Julius X
Polonia, Hamlet
Playwright and Hamlet, Hamlet
Portia, Julius X
Brutus, Julius X
Jimmy, Our Verse in Time to Come
Sprite, Our Verse in Time to Come
Gertrude, A Room in the Castle
Claudius, Hamlet
Narrator, A Room in the Castle
Cinna|Black Soothsayer, Julius X
Julius X, Julius X
Ophelia, A Room in the Castle
Casca, Julius X
Calpurnia, Julius X
Playwright, Our Verse in Time to Come
Playwright, A Room in the Castle
Playwright, Julius X
Playwright, Hamlet
Playwright, Our Verse in Time to Come
Director, Julius X
Director, A Room in the Castle
Director, Our Verse in Time to Come
Director, Hamlet
Dramaturg, Our Verse in Time to Come and Julius X
Casting Director, Our Verse in Time to Come
Stage Manager, A Room in the Castle
Production Stage Manager, Julius X
Production Stage Manager, Hamlet

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Photo by Peggy Ryan

Hamlet with Reynaldo Piniella, Raghad Makhlouf, and Dylan Arredondo 

Photo Credit: 
Photo by Peggy Ryan

Hamlet with Reynaldo Piniella, Raghad Makhlouf, and Dylan Arredondo 

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Hamlet, Yvonne Paretzky, Monuaze Mason, Reynaldo Piniella

Photo Credit: 
Photo by Peggy Ryan

Hamlet, Yvonne Paretzky, Monuaze Mason, Reynaldo Piniella

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Al Letson, author of Julius X

Photo Credit: 
Photo by Peggy Ryan

Al Letson, author of Julius X

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A Room in the Castle, Tameika Chavis, Chani Wereley, and Erika Rose.

A Room in the Castle, Tamieka Chavis, Chani Wereley, and Erika Rose.

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Photo Credit: 
Photo by Peggy Ryan

Julius X, Crystal Marie Stewart and Troy D. Wallace

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Photo Credit: 
Photo by Peggy Ryan

Our Verse in Time to Come, JaBen Early and company

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Photo Credit: 
Photo by Peggy Ryan

Conversation with Matre Grant, Lauren Gunderson and Al Letson