FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY
Folger Theatre is the vibrant centerpiece of the Folger Shakespeare Library, producing plays reflecting the breadth of the library’s peerless collection. In this unique setting, Folger Theatre produces innovative stagings that have been commended as “breathtakingly original… strikingly contemporary” (The Washington Post).
Led since 1991 by Artistic Producer Janet Alexander Griffin, Folger Theatre has received 140 nominations and 24 Helen Hayes Awards for excellence in acting, direction, design, and production. During recent seasons Folger Theatre has received the Outstanding Resident Play Award for its productions Measure for Measure, Hamlet, and The Taming of the Shrew.
Among Folger Theatre’s accomplishments is our dedication to the creation of new work. Over the last 20 years, we have commissioned and produced a number of critically-acclaimed, high-caliber world premieres. In 2016, the world premiere of texts&beheadings/ElizabethR—a new work by playwright and director Karin Coonrod—was part of the inaugural DC Women’s Voices Theater Festival; we welcomed the premiere of William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) by the innovative Reduced Shakespeare Company and the world premiere of District Merchants, a Folger Theatre commission by Aaron Posner that re-imagined Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice to a post-Civil War America. As a part of The Wonder of Will, the Folger toured the iconic 1623 First Folio, the first collected plays of Shakespeare, to all 50 states; to complement this exhibition, we created Gravediggers Tale, an interactive play based on Hamlet. Developed by director Robert Richmond, the Gravedigger, performed by Helen Hayes Award-winner Louis Butelli, has been on a national tour since January
Folger Theatre has a long history of exciting collaborations. We have co-produced, presented, and screened plays from sister theaters around the world: Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Fiasco Theater (which went on to an extended run at Theatre for a New Audience), Shakespeare’s Globe London, Royal Shakespeare Company, The Classical Theatre of Harlem, and Two River Theater Company.
Folger Theatre's annual season features text-centered productions that reflect the rarity of the Folger’s collection and resources. The unique placement of the Folger as a library and performing arts institution affords multiple points of connection for our audiences, actors, designers, and directors, who have full access to research expertise and primary source materials not available anywhere else in the world. Our audiences also experience our high-caliber productions with the original works on view.
To engage the national theater community, Folger Theatre developed the Folger Shakespeare Partnership Program in 2015. This program was designed to provide mutual co-branding and audience-building benefits between the Folger and theaters around the country that traditionally produce Shakespeare. The program's goal is to deepen engagement of Shakespeare audiences by connecting them to the resources, programs, and collections of the Folger Shakespeare Library, and to the work of festivals and theaters that are leading the way in significant Shakespeare programming. With this program, we are connecting artists and theater staff to the resources of the Folger, which is the largest Shakespeare collection in the world. To date, the Folger has enrolled 39 theaters in the program.
Folger Theatre also partnered with Simon and Schuster to increase digital availability of our Shakespeare productions through audio recordings produced by Folger Theatre.
Folger Theatre collaborates with the Folger education department in presenting programs for students and teachers, and drawing thousands of students to its productions, ensuring a new generation of enthusiastic learners and lovers of Shakespeare.
Photo by Teresa Wood, R and G are Dead, Adam Wesley Brown and Rommel Witherspoon.
Photo by Jeff Mallet, Julius Caesar, Maurice Jones as Mark Antony
Photo by Teresa Wood, Mary Stuart, Holly Twyford as Elizabeth I