Folger announces new projects and programs for the new year

The Folger Shakespeare Library announced a series of new projects and programs centered around the theme What’s Your Story? As a world-renowned source for stories and how they are told, the Folger is amplifying new voices in these inaugural programs.

Folger Theatre is starting the new year with The Reading Room, a new play festival featuring works inspired by, in response to, or in conversation with the plays of William Shakespeare. Each reading will be followed by a moderated conversation with the playwrights and directors and questions from the audience. The festival takes place at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill directly across the street from the Folger, and runs January 19 to 21, 2023.

The Reading Room features world premiere works from Lauren Gunderson (The Book of Will), Al Letson (NPR’s Reveal), Reynaldo Piniella, and Emily Lyon (Hedgepig Ensemble), and a Folger commission by Malik Work and Karen Ann Daniels in collaboration with Devin E. Haqq. Kicking off Folger’s What’s Your Story? season, the plays all have unique approaches, identities, languages and cultures. Public readings will be hosted January 19 to 21, 2023. In addition to the staged readings, there are conversations with scholars and theater artists throughout the week.

The Folger 2023 Reading Room playwrights: Al Letson, Lauren Gunderson, Karen Ann Daniels, Malik Work, Emily Lyon, and Reynaldo Piniella.

On the heels of The Reading Room, the Folger is producing Works in Progress, a week-long series of workshops and talks, inviting aspiring artists in the fields of playwriting, poetry, and songwriting to develop their own personal projects under the mentorship of established artists. The workshop culminates in an opportunity for participants to share their work with others. Works in Progress is hosted in partnership with and at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital, January 24 to 29, 2023.

The Folger continues to host and produce projects in venues across the District, as it prepares to re-open its historic building to the public in late 2023 following a multi-year Renovation Project.

“The Folger Shakespeare Library is a center for curiosity, connection, and creativity,” says Folger Director of Programming and Folger Theatre Artistic Director Karen Ann Daniels. “Open or closed, we’re inviting our neighbors and friends to explore our culture, identity, language, ideologies, and dreams as the makers and receivers of great stories. We’ll take our inspiration from Shakespeare and then build upon narratives we stored up in ourselves over these past few years. This is at the heart of our What’s Your Story? season of programs. Everyone has a story worth telling.”

The Reading Room – Plays:

Hamlet
By William Shakespeare
Bilingual adaptation by Reynaldo Piniella and Emily Lyon
Translation by Christin Eve Cato
Directed by Tatiana Pandiani
Thursday, January 19, 2023, at 7:30 pm

Hamlet is a Black, Latinx prince, whose identity has been fractured by the loss of his Black father. Tempted once again to continue the cycle of revenge, Hamlet must confront healing in the face of tragedy. This 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 with Shakespeare’s text infused by the Spanish spoken in present-day New York City.

Our Verse in Time to Come
Commissioned by Folger Shakespeare Library to commemorate the 400th Anniversary of the printing of Shakespeare’s First Folio
By Malik Work and Karen Ann Daniels, in collaboration with Devin E. Haqq
Directed by Devin E. Haqq
Friday, January 20, 2023, at 7:30 pm

An aging emcee diagnosed with early-onset dementia looks to reconnect with his estranged children before it’s too late. Reunited to sort out their father’s inheritance, the siblings take a journey with the storytellers who hold the pieces of the puzzle of their father’s life and legacy. Inspired by the works and words of Shakespeare, Our Verse in Time to Come bridges the past with the present and interrogates whose stories should remain and who’s responsible for their survival.

Julius X
By Al Letson
Directed by Nicole Brewer
Saturday, January 21, 2023, at 2 pm

Set in 1965, Julius X intermixes the lives of Julius Caesar and slain civil rights leader Malcolm X, re-envisioning Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar with a new perspective on the assassinated leader and his enemies, while weaving African mythology and performance poetry into Shakespeare’s text.

A Room in the Castle
By Lauren Gunderson
Directed by Eddie DeHais
Saturday, January 21, 2023, at 7:30 pm

How does a woman survive the court of Denmark? A Room in the Castle rebrands the stories of the women of Shakespeare’s Hamlet into a mediation on women helping women, what mothering a madman could mean, and what responsibility generations of feminists have to one another, with music and a defiant hope for the future.

The Reading Room Programs:

Post Reading Conversations – all four readings are followed by a conversation with the playwrights, directors, and scholars at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation.

Morning Coffee with Lauren Gunderson and Al Letson
Saturday, January 21 at 11:00 am

Please check the Folger website at www.folger.edu/events/the-reading-room for further information and schedule.

The Reading Room Tickets:

The Reading Room series takes place at The Lutheran Church of the Reformation at 212 East Capitol Street, NE, Washington, DC.

A pass to see all four readings: $25.

Additional conversations and special events: $15.

An All-Access Pass, which includes admission to all four readings and all special events: $50.

Students: admitted free one-half hour before readings, with a valid ID.

Tickets are available for purchase from the Folger Box Office: www.folger.edu/theatre or
(202) 544-7077
.

Works in Progress:

Following the Reading Room festival of new theatrical works, the Folger is convening a panel of artists to explore how Shakespeare inspires new generations of creators and the importance of welcoming new voices into the canon. A panel discussion and series of workshops in three disciplines—playwriting, poetry, and songwriting—invite aspiring artists to create their own personal works under the mentorship of teaching artists.

Workshop registration is open to the public. Visit www.folger.edu/talks-screenings-more or contact the Folger Box Office at (202) 544-7077.

A panel discussion on Shakespeare as a Starting Point, exploring the ways in which Shakespeare’s works can serve as springboards for new expression, is Tuesday, January 24 at 7pm at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital, 921 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, Washington, DC. Panelists include Teri Ellen Cross Davis, Erin Frisby, Caleen Sinnette Jennings, and Kim Roberts. Available to workshop participants at no extra cost.

Teaching workshops take place over three weekday evenings—January 25 to 27, 2023—and are offered both in-person and virtually. Workshops are open to all; recommended for those at the beginning of their creative journeys. Suitable for adults and mature teenagers (16+).

Works in Progress Workshops:

Works in Progress: Playwriting

Instructor: Caleen Sinnette Jennings

Playwright Caleen Sinnette Jennings enables participants to use Shakespeare and their own life experiences to create monologues and short scenes. Following the workshop, attendees will see their pieces performed at an in-person presentation on Sunday, January 29 at the Hill Center.

This workshop is offered in person at the Hill Center on Wednesday, January 25 at 6:30 pm or virtually over Zoom on Thursday, January 26 at 6:30 pm.

Works in Progress: Poetry

Instructors: Teri Ellen Cross Davis and Kim Roberts

In this workshop, poets Kim Roberts and Teri Ellen Cross Davis look at sonnets—the enduring appeal of Shakespeare’s sonnets, the rich history of the form, and how contemporary American poets continue to play with the sonnet tradition to create something new. The class combines discussion with time to write. Participants receive reading materials ahead of the session.

Following the workshop, poets have an opportunity to perform their pieces at an in-person
presentation on Sunday, January 29 at the Hill Center. Participation in the presentation is not required.

This workshop is offered in person at the Hill Center on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm or virtually over Zoom on Wednesday, January 25 at 6:30 pm.

Works in Progress: Songwriting

Instructor: Erin Frisby

In this workshop, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and songwriter Erin Frisby guides participants in creating their own musical compositions, bringing personal stories to life via song. Participants who do not already play an instrument have the option of writing lyrics to pre-recorded musical tracks. Following the workshop, aspiring songwriters have an opportunity to perform their pieces at an in-person presentation on Sunday, January 29 at the Hill Center. Participation in the presentation is not required.

This workshop is offered in person at the Hill Center on Thursday, January 26 at 6:30 pm or virtually over Zoom on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm.

Who’s Who – The Reading Room:

Nicole Brewer (Director, Julius X) is a proud member of SDC. She is critically aware of the impact of racism in the industry and centers her directing practice in anti-racism. Directing credits: The Winter’s Tale at Shakespeare Theatre’s Academy of Classical Acting, Anna Deavere Smith’s Fires in the Mirror at Baltimore Center Stage and The Long Wharf as well as numerous projects as a guest director at colleges and universities across North America. Ms. Brewer is on the faculty in the acting department at the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale. She earned her M.F.A. in Acting from Northern Illinois University and her B.F.A. from Howard University.  Nicole shares her anti-racist theater approach to theaters and institutions all over the country, Canada, and the UK.

Karen Ann Daniels (Playwright, Our Verse in Time to Come) is the Director of Programming of the Folger Shakespeare Library and Artistic Director of Folger Theatre. Prior to joining the Folger, she was director of the Mobile Unit at The Public Theater in New York, producing tours around all five boroughs and bringing the tools of theater to the incarcerated community through Mobile Unit In Corrections (MUiC). As the associate director of The Old Globe’s Arts Engagement department, she managed community partnerships, and created, piloted, and implemented cornerstone programs such as Globe for All, Behind the Curtain, coLAB, Community Voices, and Reflecting Shakespeare. A native San Diegan, she is a thought leader, facilitator, and contributing architect for creating tools to help cultural institutions integrate anti-racism, equity, accessibility, community, and audience engagement, and shared leadership as a long-term mission-oriented strategy for organizational growth. She is a 2021 Fellow at the Atlantic Fellows on Racial Equity, a network of leaders from the US and South Africa. She served as chair of the City of Chula Vista’s Cultural Arts Commission, as well as the New California Arts Fund Leadership and Learning Committees, and is a co-producer and facilitator for the biannual Shakespeare in Prisons Conference and Network. In recent years, her creative work focused on co-creation as a composer/lyricist/playwright for musicals like gather ‘round and The Ruby in Us, centering the lives and stories of community.

Eddie DeHais (Director, A Room in the Castle) is a Franco-American transgender director, choreographer, writer, and visual artist. Raised bi-culturally between New York and France, Eddie works internationally in theater and opera, reimagining classics and developing new plays, musicals, and operas. They create epic, transformational, visceral experiences that catalyze fierce compassion and vulnerable curiosity across all boundaries. Recent work includes working as the Choreographic and Intimacy Consultant at the Paris Opera Bastille on their new production of Salome, a workshop at the Seattle Rep of the musical Here & Their, and a workshop centered on disability and blindness of Charlie German’s Happy Birthday Jay, You C*nt at the 14st Y. Upcoming work includes their own original translation and adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas at Book-It Repertory Theater, Hedwig at ArtsWest, The Merry Wives of Windsor at Seattle Shakespeare, and directing for the web-series Dirty Jew, filming in NYC. They also were recently awarded a grant from the San Diego Opera to develop an original adaptation of Metropolis. Eddie has their MFA in Directing from Brown University.

Devin E. Haqq (Director, Our Verse in Time to Come) is an Emmy-nominated producer, a member of the Fiasco Theater Acting Company, an IFP alumni, and a Finalist for the HBOAccess 2020 Directing Fellowship. His feature film, Ambition’s Debt, won the 2017 Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) and the 2018 Paul Robeson Award Honorable Mention at the Newark Black Film Festival. Recently, Devin produced the short film Cupids, directed by Zoey Martinson, which had its world premiere at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival (2022 NAACP Image Award Nominee). Cupids has since gone on to play at some of the top film festivals around the world, including Woodstock, Cambridge, Chicago International Film Festival (Gold Hugo Award Nominee), Riverrun, The American Pavilion at Cannes, and recently aired on CBS & BET networks. His latest short film project, The Mark, was nominated for Best Horror at the Academy qualifying 2020 LA Shorts International Film Festival and won Best Narrative Short at the 2021 Atlanta Shortsfest. Devin made his stage directorial debut in 2020 with the critically acclaimed Pass Over by Antoinette Nwandu at Luna Stage in West Orange, NJ. He has since gone on to direct workshops and staff as an associate director on productions for such organizations as The Public Theatre, Folger Theatre, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Fiasco, and the National Black Theatre.

Lauren Gunderson (Playwright, A Room in the Castle) has been one of the most produced playwrights in America since 2015, topping the list thrice including 2022/23. She is a two-time winner of the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award for I and You and The Book of Will, the winner of the Lanford Wilson Award, and a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. She is a playwright, screenwriter, musical book writer, and children’s author who lives in San Francisco. She graduated from NYU Tisch as a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship.

Al Letson (Playwright, Julius X) is an American writer, journalist, and radio and podcast host. He has served as the host of the radio show and podcast “Reveal” and before that, he created and hosted the show “State of the Re:Union.” Letson regularly appeared in slam poetry performances across the country including Russell Simmons’s Def Poetry Jam, and CBS’s “Final Four Pre-Game Show.” Letson began writing plays in 2001 and produced his first one-man show, Essential Personnel, that year. In 2004, the Baltimore School for the Arts commissioned him to write Chalk, a “poetical” combining stage acting with poetry. Other plays include Griot and his solo show, Summer in Sanctuary. In 2016, Letson began hosting his own story podcast, “Errthang Show!”

Emily Lyon (Playwright, Hamlet) is an award-winning Brooklyn-based director and story editor. She is currently the Associate Artistic Director of Hedgepig Ensemble, where she is curating the Expand the Canon project – a call to action for classical theaters to include women’s work and right the narrative of history. In March 2020, Emily was part of the first U.S. cohort of the Creative Climate Leadership, created by Julie’s Bicycle and hosted at Biosphere 2, which engaged a wide range of artists in how to tell powerful climate change stories. Previous projects include co-creating the Social Impact Writers Lab, gamifying environmental justice as part of the Civilians R&D Group, and creating comedic shorts around the perils of facial recognition. In response to the 2016 election, she created and produced How We Hear, a theatrical piece looking at political debates through US history in search of returning nuance to our divisive conversations. In 2015, Emily was a recipient of the Drama League Directing Fellowship and a Geva Theatre Directing Fellow. She has joined the Drama League as a Media Associate and serves as their Captain for the Broadway Green Alliance.

Reynaldo Piniella (Playwright, Hamlet) is an actor, writer, and director from East New York, Brooklyn. He was seen on Broadway in Trouble in Mind (Roundabout Theatre) and Thoughts of a Colored Man (Golden Theatre). He received the Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowship from Theatre Communications Group, the Thomas Barbour award for Playwriting, the All Stars Project Fellowship for Young Artists of Color and a Broadway World award for Best Actor for his performance in Thoughts of A Colored Man at Baltimore Center Stage. American Theatre magazine called him “a Theatre Worker You Should Know.” He is an alumni of the Civilians R&D Group and a current member of the AFO Solo Collective and New Victory Theater’s LabWorks.

Tatiana Pandiani (Director, Hamlet) is a director-choreographer who works in English and Spanish. Originally from Buenos Aires, she grew up around milongas, antique stores, and dance studios. She studied Performance and Philosophy at Florida International University and Directing at Columbia University. Her work combines live performance, dance, and music to challenge and entertain; it is inspired by María Irene Fornés, Frida Kahlo, Pina Bausch, Bob Fosse, Bertolt Brecht, and Astor Piazzolla.

She serves as the Associate Director for the First National Broadway tour of What the Constitution Means to Me by Heidi Schreck which recently closed on Broadway. Tatiana directed the international tour of La Negrophilie by Zakiya Markland at the Frank Collymore Hall in Barbados, the Ubumuntu Arts Festival in Rwanda, and the Kampala International Theatre Festival in Uganda. Tatiana has served at director-choreographer and co-book writer for the ongoing development on the bilingual musical AZUL at the National Alliance of Musical Theatre (NAMT), the National Music Theatre Conference at the O’Neill, Tofte Lake Center, New York Theatre Workshop, BRIC, The Drama League and many others.

Malik Work (Playwright, Our Verse in Time to Come) is a founding member of The Real Live Show, a music conglomerate known for bringing the New York City jazz and hip-hop communities together, transforming the culture of both. He’s written and performed the hip hop musical Verses @ Work, a one-man show that toured with the Public Theater (nominated for Best Solo Performance at the AUDELCO Awards). The film version of Verses @ Work was distinguished by the Hip Hop Film Festival, the Harlem International Film Festival, and won the International Spotlight Award at the Los Angeles Brazilian Film
Festival. He has been the commercial voice of various brands, from HBO Boxing to Fiber One. Malik is currently the voice of Planet Word, an immersive museum of the English language in Washington D.C. He has composed and performed poetry for the Webby Award-winning project “People Not Property with Historic Hudson Valley,” and is currently the central artist in Preservation Long Island’s “Jupiter Hammon Project.” Malik teaches acting, writing, theater arts, hip-hop, beat-making, and hip hop theater around the world. His Hip Hop Shakespeare workshop was recently presented by the Folger Shakespeare Library at the National Building Museum in summer 2022.

Who’s Who – Works in Progress:

Erin Frisby (Teaching Artist, Songwriting) is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and songwriter. Erin has performed at Carnegie Hall, historic punk venue 924 Gilman Street, as part of Tino Sehgal’s “This, You” at the Hirshhorn, Fort Reno, and everywhere in between. Early in their career, they were honored as a three-time Rosa Ponselle Silver Rose awardee for opera performance and participated as a soloist in the Amalfi Coast Festival while completing their vocal performance degree at University of Maryland.

Erin has written music for, performed with, and toured with The OSYX. Releasing “One of the best heavy records of the year” according to music journalist Jim DeRogatis of Sound Opinions, The OSYX burst onto the D.C. music scene with a refreshing energy featured at The Smithsonian Social Power of Music and by Curve Magazine. Previously Erin toured the country frequently with FuzzQueen and Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray. Erin currently plays with new power trio, Ammonite, which will be featured in performance by the National Museum of Women in the Arts in February 2023.

An accomplished teaching artist, Erin developed in-school music education programming for under-resourced public schools in Chicago as the Program Director of Rock For Kids (now Foundations of Music). Erin’s curriculum was piloted for 30 students in 3rd and 4th grade and grew to serve 7,000 students at 25 schools. Erin has created and led interactive music workshops at The Smithsonian Luce Center and 7 Drum City, and most recently piloted a yearlong skill-sharing cohort for DIY music artists through This Could Go Boom!  Erin is a co-founder of This Could Go Boom!, which is a nonprofit record label and organization leveraging resources and facilitating community collaboration, to champion gender identities that have been systematically marginalized in all aspects of the music business. Erin has presented a Hirshhorn Gallery Talk as well as a Kennedy Center Millennium Stage talk as a representative of TCGB! The organization has been featured in Alternative Press, The Washington Post, and as part of the Smithsonian Folkways Festival. TCGB! has released three full-length albums and an EP and has presented 125 musical acts in paid performance. TCGB! is a recipient of a Maryland Creativity Grant.

Erin has recently received funding as an individual artist from the PG County Arts and Humanities Council as well as the Maryland State Arts Council to create new musical works. Both pieces included creative community collaboration with participants of all ages and experience levels. Erin completed intensive arts activism training from The Sanctuaries D.C. Arts For Social Impact program.

Caleen Sinnette Jennings is an actor, director, playwright, and a founding member of The Welders, a D.C. Playwrights’ Collective. Dramatic Publishing Company has published eight of her plays, and her work has appeared in seven play anthologies. Caleen has received playwriting awards from the Kennedy Center and The Actor’s Theatre of Louisville. In April 2022, her play Queens Girl in the World had an off-Broadway run. The other two plays in her Queens Girl Trilogy (Queens Girl in Africa and Queens Girl: Black in the Green Mountains) have been performed at Mosaic Theatre in Washington D.C. and at Everyman Theatre in Baltimore, MD. Arena Stage commissioned her to write monologues for two pandemic-related Zoom plays: May 22, 2020 and The 51st State. She wrote the final episode for Round House Theatre’s zoom series, Homebound. She was commissioned by the Kennedy Center to write a stage adaptation of Walter Dean Myers’ novel, Darius & Twig, which was produced at the Kennedy Center Family Theatre and had a national tour. She is currently writing the book for a new musical on the life of famous Black contralto Marian Anderson and working on a commission from Arena Stage. Caleen is Professor Emerita of Theatre in the Department of Performing Arts at American University in Washington, DC where she taught playwriting, among many other theater courses, for 31 years. She has been a workshop teacher for Kennedy Center’s Playwright’s Intensive for over 20 years, and she has been a faculty member for the Folger’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute for 28 years. Jennings has her B.A. in Drama from Bennington College, and her M.F.A. in Acting from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

Teri Ellen Cross Davis (Teaching Artist, Poetry) is the author of a more perfect Union, 2019 winner of The Journal/Charles B. Wheeler Poetry Prize, and Haint, winner of the 2017 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. She is the recipient of the Poetry Society of America’s Robert H. Winner Memorial Prize, a Cave Canem fellow, and the O.B. Hardison Poetry Series Curator and Poetry Programs manager for the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C.

Kim Roberts (Teaching Artist, Poetry) is the editor of the anthology By Broad Potomac’s Shore: Great Poems from the Early Days of our Nation’s Capital (University of Virginia Press, 2020), selected by the East Coast Centers for the Book for the 2021 Route 1 Reads program as the book that “best illuminates important aspects” of the culture of Washington, DC. She is the author of A Literary Guide to Washington, DC: Walking in the Footsteps of American Writers from Francis Scott Key to Zora Neale Hurston (University of Virginia Press, 2018), and five books of poems, most recently The Scientific Method (WordTech Editions, 2017). Her chapbook, Corona/Crown, a cross-disciplinary collaboration with photographer Robert Revere, is forthcoming from WordTech Editions in 2023.

COVID-19 Safety Protocols:

The safety and health of our community are of utmost importance to us. Folger Theatre’s The Reading Room series will require all attendees to wear a well-fitting mask inside the venue to ensure a safe atmosphere for patrons and artists alike.

All Folger performers and staff are vaccinated. Folger staff and volunteers on site will be masked at all times. The Folger is committed to maintaining the highest level of health and safety precautions around COVID-19. For more information, please visit www.folger.edu/covid-19-safety-protocols.

About Folger Shakespeare Library and Folger Theatre:

Folger Shakespeare Library is the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, the ultimate resource for exploring Shakespeare and his world. The Folger welcomes millions of visitors online and in person. It provides unparalleled access to a huge array of resources, from original sources to modern interpretations. With the Folger, you can experience the power of performance, the wonder of exhibitions, and the excitement of path-breaking research. The Folger offers the opportunity to see and even work with early modern sources, driving discovery and transforming education for students of all ages.

The award-winning Folger Theatre in our nation’s capital bridges the arts and humanities through transformational performances and programming that speak inclusively to the human experience. Now under the leadership of Artistic Director Karen Ann Daniels, Folger Theatre continues its legacy through exciting interpretations and adaptations of Shakespeare and expands the classical canon through cultivating today’s artists and commissioning new work that is in dialogue with the concerns and issues of our time. Folger Theatre thrives both on its historical stage and in the community, engaging audiences wherever they happen to be.

During a multiyear building renovation, join the Folger online and on the road. Learn more at folger.edu.