Shakespeare at Emory events lead up to First Folio exhibit

Emory Report | March 22, 2016

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Four hundred years after William Shakespeare's death, his work continues to resonate with audiences across the globe, providing new insights into the nature of love, power and human existence. This month, Emory embarks on a yearlong focus on the man whose words changed the world.

Kicking off next week with events from Emory Libraries and Theater Emory, Shakespeare at Emory celebrates the University's selection as a host site for the exhibit of "First Folio: The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare" with plays, readings, exhibits and other activities.

One host site was selected from each state to display the national traveling exhibition of Shakespeare's First Folio, one of the world's most treasured books, from the Folger Shakespeare Library. Emory was chosen as the Georgia venue.

"Appropriately, Emory's year of celebration begins with a thought-provoking scholarly reflection on the First Folio, to be followed by a rich array of theatrical performances and poetry readings, as well as exhibitions, conversations and pop-up events," says Rosemary Magee, director of the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. "All are invited to participate — in every way possible."

The First Folio, which will be on view at Emory's Michael C. Carlos Museum from Nov. 5 through Dec. 11, is the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, published in 1623, seven years after the Bard's death. This year also marks the 400th anniversary of his death.

Assembled by two of Shakespeare's company actors after his death in 1616, the First Folio was the only source for 18 of Shakespeare's 38 plays, according to the Folger Shakespeare Library. Without it, previously unpublished plays such as "Macbeth," "Julius Caesar," "Twelfth Night" and "As You Like It" might never have been found.

"Secrets of the First Folio"

Shakespeare at Emory events begin Tuesday, March 29, with "Secrets of the First Folio," a lecture by Tiffany Stern, professor of English and early modern drama at the University of Oxford.

Stern will discuss the creation of the First Folio and the impact of this publication on the enduring popularity of William Shakespeare. The lecture, which takes place at 4 p.m. in the Jones Room at Emory University's Robert W. Woodruff Library, is free and open to the public.

"Stern is an engaging speaker," says Sheila Cavanagh, professor of English and co-director of Emory's First Folio visit and Year of Shakespeare 2016-2017. "Her inaugural lecture for Emory's Year of Shakespeare promises to illuminate Shakespeare's dramatic texts in an exciting and informative fashion."

A preeminent Shakespeare scholar, Stern is a general editor of the Arden Shakespeare series and author of a number of award-winning books. She is also the Beaverbrook and Bouverie Tutorial Fellow in English at the University of Oxford.

Her lecture is sponsored by the Hightower Fund, the Rose Library, British Council, World Shakespeare Project, the Pierce Institute at Oxford College, Barnes & Noble bookstore at Emory, and the Emory departments of English, history and theater.

"As You Like It" with all-female and all-male casts

In honor of the First Folio's upcoming visit to campus, Theater Emory launches its celebration of Shakespeare with the great romantic comedy "As You Like It," running March 31 – April 10 in the Mary Gray Munroe Theater.

As one character famously asks, "Can one desire too much of a good thing?" Theater Emory tackles this question head-on with two productions running in repertory: an all-male cast directed by Tim McDonough and an all-female cast directed by Jan Akers.

"We are interested in hearing Shakespeare's play through the voices of male performers and the voices of female performers. We are curious to see if certain themes, points of view, and emotions might come into focus differently or similarly in the two productions," explains Akers. "The genders of the characters remain as Shakespeare wrote them. We are asking the actors to seek what is human in each of the characters."

Thrown into exile, fellow intrepid travellers seek out the forest of Arden to wrestle with questions of betrayal, new identities, freedom and true love. In Theater Emory's productions, the famous Burning Man Festival of citizen artists that takes place annually in Nevada's Black Rock Desert inspires the fictional Arden. 

"In our production, Arden is an existential quest, a place to find your authentic self or reinvent yourself, to see if people can mean what they say and if love can be trusted," says McDonough. "It is a network of dreamers and doers creating a culture of possibility. As noted in its mission: 'Burning Man is a laboratory. Not every experiment works, but we'll never know if we don't try.'"

Performances of "As You Like It" run in repertory March 31-April 10 in the Mary Gray Munroe Theater of the Dobbs University Center. The all-male production performs March 31, April 7 and April 9-10 at 7 p.m. and April 3 at 2 p.m. The all-female production performs April 2-3, 6 and 8 at 7 p.m. and April 10 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $22, $18 for discount category members, and $6 for Emory students and are on sale now at arts.emory.edu/tickets, by phone at 404-727-5050, or in person at the Arts at Emory Box Office in the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. Discounts are not available online.

Special $4 tickets are available for stage-side floor cushion seats. Just like the groundlings of Shakespeare's time, patrons who purchase these tickets will have an up-close-and-personal view of the revelry.

Twelve-hour Shakespeare Anniversary Celebration

On April 23, Theater Emory will host a Shakespeare Anniversary Celebration at various locations in and around the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, inviting students and faculty, local artists, and community members to join together for a 12-hour tribute featuring performances, conversations, and festive gatherings.

The revelry begins at noon and ends with a midnight ritual inviting all attendees to honor the life and art of Shakespeare.

Events include a large-scale battle scene, a discussion with Atlanta musician Kendall Simpson on composing music for Shakespeare, performances from local artists including Staibdance and Callosum Collective, readings from prominent Atlanta Shakespearean actors, excerpts from Emory student theater productions, and, of course, comic diversions from a fool or two. High tea brings together Emory faculty in an informal conversation entitled "Shakespeare: What's on Your Mind?" during which participants discuss their Shakespearean research, current passions, and new investigations in development.

More information along with a schedule and complete list of event locations can be found at theater.emory.edu starting April 1. This event is free and open to the public.

Exhibits at Woodruff Library

Emory Libraries is also hosting several Shakespeare exhibits, the first two of which opened this month and are on display through June 26. The exhibits are free and open to the public during library visitor hours.

  • "Dispatched in Post: The Bard on Cards" highlights some of Emory English professor Harry Rusche's extensive collection of postcards that depict iconic Shakespearean characters and scenes. Late 19th- to early 20th-century postcards related to Hamlet and other more popular plays are the focus. The exhibit is located in Woodruff Library Level 2, in the alcove near the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence.
  • "Plants are Set before Us: Shakespeare's Natural Worlds" explores how plants play a vital role in Shakespeare's works, both as physical devices and as symbols. This exhibit cites references from a variety of scenes and includes specimens from the Emory University Herbarium. It is on view in Woodruff Library Level 2, in the alcove near the library service desk.

"These exhibits give us the opportunity to highlight Shakespeare's works through different mediums," says library exhibitions manager Kathy Dixson. "The postcard exhibit provides a look at how this popular communication device satisfied an interest in Shakespeare. The plants exhibit focuses on an aspect of his works that is not always considered, and it allows us to highlight the work of the Emory University Herbarium in preserving plant material for a variety of research."