Lily McKee High School Fellows Program

Given the evolving COVID-19 crisis, the Lily McKee High School Fellows Program will take a different shape. We have made the difficult decision to suspend applications during our building renovation. We will announce our new thinking on this webpage in 2023.

The Lily McKee High School Fellows Program is a rigorous program in which students explore a range of approaches to Shakespeare and the humanities, with deep dives into Shakespeare’s language and one play in particular. Working with scholars, actors, directors, teachers, editors, conservators, curators, and digital humanists, McKee Fellows form a community of learners gathered around knowledge and materials found only at the Folger.


McKee Fellows
Tracy Russo
Photo Credit: 
Tracy Russo

This program is about big questions: What power does imaginative language hold for us today? What does Shakespeare tell us about being human? Can we really know the origin of a word? How can scholarship and performance interact? These questions take fellows through all kinds of deep, exciting learning: rare book talks, research special online and material collections, Folger Theatre matinees, student performances before a live audience, and weekly seminars with world-class scholars..

This program consists of an intensive fall course of roughly 10 sessions, running from September 14th to November 14th. The play in focus in 2020? The Tempest! This year, as the main building of the Folger undergoes renovation, we expect to hold some classes at the Folger’s Haskell Center on Capitol Hill, with the bulk of the classes at other exciting sites around DC. Sessions will typically take place on Monday afternoons from 4:00-6:15PM and include dinner. There will be one special excursion to Folger Theatre and Round House Theatre’s production of The Tempest in Bethesda, Maryland.  

The fall course culminates in a showcase of student research and group scenes.

Here’s what past McKee Fellows say about their experience:

  • This experience was life-changing.
  • I have always loved to learn, but the Folger allowed me to learn without limits or expectations. It inspired me week after week to continue to build connections and look for the different sides of a story. As I look ahead to college, a career, and my general future, I expect that I will not settle for anything less exciting than what the Folger exposed me to.
  • We became a family. I feel so lucky to have met people who I otherwise wouldn't have crossed paths with. I was also surprised by how much access we were given to the Folger, through the Reading Room of course, but also through our seminars, our tour, the rare books we saw, etc. I very much felt like a part of the family. We are a family.
  • I was surprised to find other people who were actually like me. It was a lot of fun to be able to spend so much time with people whose interests are so similar to mine.
  • I loved everything, but my absolute favorite part had to be the research project. It allowed me to see Shakespeare's work in an entirely new way and it allowed me to connect his plays to my life and the whole world. I'm so thankful that we had the opportunity to get reader's cards and research in the Reading Room. It was an experience I could only dream of having and I'm so glad that that dream came true!


How to apply

COVID-19 Update: We have made the difficult decision to suspend applications. We will announce our new thinking on this webpage in 2023. 

Are you interested in words and language? Does the idea of working in the world’s largest Shakespeare collection thrill you? Do you wonder why we still study Shakespeare? Do you want to learn more about his plays? Are you interested in a kind of learning that brings together all kinds of subjects—literature, art, performance, technology, history, rhetoric, philosophy, and more? Do you want to read, write, perform, discuss, and question with wildly inquisitive and interesting people?

Rising high school juniors and seniors from public, parochial, independent, and home schools in the Washington, DC area are eligible. Applicants should be intellectually curious, self-motivated, and eager to work with all kinds of people and perspectives. No previous knowledge of Shakespeare is required. All interested students are encouraged to apply.


All McKee Fellows are awarded full scholarships. Additional funds may be available for students with after-school jobs or who have major transportation challenges. We are committed to assembling a group of students with a wide range of experiences in an atmosphere of mutual respect. We are also committed to removing barriers that might prevent a committed student from joining this cohort. Books and tickets to plays are provided.

This program is supported by gifts in memory of High School Fellowship alumna Lily St. John McKee (1987-2015).

More information

Questions? Please contact Peggy O'Brien at

Make a donation to the Lily St. John McKee Memorial Fund in support of this program.


Photo Credit: 
Folger Shakespeare Library