The Wonder of Will: At the Folger

Celebrating 400 Years of Shakespeare

The Folger Shakespeare Library kept up a festive, packed, and lively schedule at home, too. Located one block from the US Capitol in Washington, DC, the Folger invited Members of Congress to see off the First Folio nationwide tour. A wealth of public programs and outreach at the Folger included plays, concerts, lectures, readings, organized conversations on topics such as race and literature, connections to scholarly conferences in DC, and much more. Twenty-five middle and high school teachers came from across the country in July for a Teaching Shakespeare Institute. Highlights among the special events at the Folger were a live televised broadcast on the anniversary date, innovative performances at the Folger Gala, and a boffo version of the Folger's annual Shakespeare's Birthday Open House.
February 2015

The Folger Shakespeare Library announces the 52 tour stops for the First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare traveling exhibition. Following up, the dates for each tour stop are announced on April 23, 2015.

December 2015

Members of the United States Congress preview the First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare traveling exhibition at a special Folger reception.

January 2016

Folger Consort inaugurates the anniversary year with The Wonder of Will, a concert at the Washington National Cathedral in collaboration with the English vocal group Stile Antico. Unfortunately, performances are canceled due to snow.

The Shakespeare, Life of an Icon exhibition (Jan 20-Mar 27) brings together 50 of the most important manuscripts and printed books related to Shakespeare's life and career—some on public display for the first time. This exhibition represents highlights from a comprehensive online exhibition of primary source documents from Shakespeare's lifetime, Shakespeare Documented. Both exhibitions are curated by Heather Wolfe, Folger curator of manuscripts.

Folger Theatre stages the classic Shakespeare comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Jan 26-Mar 13).

February 2016

Heather Wolfe leads a Free Folger Friday workshop on the art and history of the Renaissance love letter, complete with quill writing and sonnets, just before Valentine's Day.

Diana Owen, director of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and Kevin Colls of University of Staffordshire present a special lecture on their archaeological findings at Shakespeare's home in Stratford-upon-Avon. 

March 2016

At a Free Folger Friday event, local director Cassie Ash explores Shakespeare’s connection to the manuscript of the play Sir Thomas More, featured in the Folger exhibition Shakespeare, Life of an Icon

Oxford professor Tiffany Stern considers the relationship between ballads and Shakespeare’s plays in the first talk of 2016 for the Shakespeare Anniversary Lecture Series, presented by the Folger Institute.

Folger Consort celebrates the lively country dances and tunes mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays with its second concert of the year, Playing with Fire: Virtuoso Instrumental Music of the Renaissance.

As part of the Folger’s partnership with the Hogarth Shakespeare series, Howard Jacobson reads from his new novel Shylock Is My Name, a contemporary rendering of The Merchant of Venice.

April 2016

The America’s Shakespeare exhibition traces Shakespeare’s influence on America’s history and culture with rare letters, costumes, books, and film clips (Apr 7-Jul 24). Georgianna Ziegler, the Louis B. Thalheimer Associate Librarian and Head of Reference, is curator.

Poets Malachi Black, Laurie Ann Guerrero, and A. Van Jordan discuss the sonnet and how they breathe new life into a centuries-old form, for the O.B. Hardison Poetry reading series.

Folger Consort performs selections of English composer Henry Purcell’s 1692 The Fairy Queen, music for the restoration version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as other memorable settings of Shakespeare by Purcell.

At the annual Folger Gala, actor Wendell Pierce shares his personal experiences with Shakespeare’s works, and hip-hop musician Christylez Bacon performs a “remix” of a Shakespearean sonnet.

Folger Theatre premieres a new work by Reduced Shakespeare Company, William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) (Apr 21-May 8).

The Folger commemorates the day of Shakespeare’s death, Apr 23, with a special event, broadcast on C-SPAN2’s Book TV. William D. Adams, Justice Stephen Breyer, Jane Chu, Caroline Clay, Donna Denizé, Kaya Henderson, Ellen MacKay, Reed Martin, Clarence Page, Kal Penn, Francisca Piantini, Octavio Solis, Dr. Ellen Stofan, and Austin Tichenor share their Shakespeare stories. Watch an archived version of The Wonder of Will Live.

At the annual Open House, the Folger celebrates Shakespeare’s birthday with performances, stage combat demonstrations, Elizabethan crafts, and birthday cake.

Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt delivers the second talk of this year's Shakespeare Anniversary Lecture Series, about what it means for Shakespeare to believe that life is a story that can and must be told.

At a Free Folger Friday event, cartoonist Mya Gosling shares about the process of creating her popular Shakespeare webcomic Good Tickle Brain.

May 2016

District Merchants, a new variation on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, has its world premiere. The Folger Theatre-commissioned work, written by four-time Helen Hayes Award-winner Aaron Posner, brings the tale of money, merchandise, and mercy to a post-Civil War Washington, DC (May 31-Jul 3).

CrossTalk: DC Reflects on Identity and Difference, a community engagement initiative funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Humanities in the Public Square, starts with a kickoff forum. The Folger partners with DC organizations to host public conversations about race and religion, using The Merchant of Venice and District Merchants to spark conversation.

June 2016

The Folger presents free outdoor screenings of The Merchant of Venice (2004) and West Side Story (1961) for Bard in the Park.

Kim Hall, a professor at Barnard College, speaks on Shakespeare and the African diaspora for the third talk in this year's Shakespeare Anniversary Lecture Series.

July 2016

Twenty-five middle and high school teachers from around the United States work with scholars, theater professionals, and mentor teachers at the Folger’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

August 2016

The Folger exhibition Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity (Aug 6-Nov 6) takes a close look at these two celebrated authors’ literary afterlives—and finds some surprising parallels. Janine Barchas and Kristina Straub are the curators.

September 2016

Folger Theatre brings its first Jane Austen play to the stage, Sense & Sensibility (Sep 13-Nov 13), launching the 2016/2017 season. The play, which complements the Will & Jane exhibition on display, receives rave reviews and is extended twice.

October 2016

Yale professor Joseph Roach gives the fourth talk in this year's Shakespeare Anniversary Lecture Series, speaking about the literary celebrity of Shakespeare and Jane Austen, Oct 4.

Folger Friday audiences participate in a New Orleans-style jazz funeral for Shakespeare as part of a program presented by Michael White and the Liberty Brass Band.

The Folger plays host to Austen devotees in town for the annual meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA).

November 2016

The Folger welcomes Roomful of Teeth, the Grammy-winning vocal group, to perform a musical celebration of Shakespeare that includes The Isle, a Folger-commissioned piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw. Inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the new work captures the sound of Prospero and Caliban’s island using human voices.

The traveling First Folios return home to the Folger for a special exhibition, First Folio! Shakespeare’s American Tour (Nov 19, 2016 - Jan 22, 2017), that chronicles American communities’ celebrations of the book that gave us Shakespeare.

January 2017

Director Eleanor Holdridge brings Lauren Gunderson’s new play to life with an exciting Folger Friday staged reading. In The Book of Will, Gunderson tells the tale of Henry Condell and John Heminges, the two men from Shakespeare’s company who join forces to preserve the plays he left behind – but not without hi-jinks and setbacks along the way.

Folger Theatre stages the classic Shakespeare comedy As You Like It (Jan 24-Mar 5), directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch and in association with Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. 

April 2017

The annual Folger Gala celebrates 25 years of Folger Theatre.

At the annual Shakespeare’s Birthday Open House, the Folger celebrates with performances, stage combat demonstrations, Elizabethan crafts, and birthday cake.

Folger Director Michael Witmore gives the annual Shakespeare’s Birthday Lecture, reflecting on Shakespeare’s continuing appeal after 400 years, as well as 10 things that Shakespeare knew about people, history, and power that we still need to know today.