‘Be Not Afraid of Greatness:’ Shakespeare’s First Folio Coming to UConn

Jonathan the Husky

Jonathan the Husky poses wearing an Elizabethan collar on stage at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theater on March 4, 2016. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Recent news coverage of the discovery in Scotland of a previously unknown first edition of William Shakespeare’s collected works has brought increased interest to the national traveling exhibition “First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare.” That exhibition is coming to UConn in the fall, and will be on display at the William Benton Museum of Art from Sept. 2 to 25.

The “First Folio” is the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays published by two of his fellow actors in 1623, seven years after the Bard’s death on April 23. The collection includes 18 plays that would otherwise have been lost, including “Macbeth,” Julius Caesar,” “Twelfth Night,” “The Tempest,” “Antony and Cleopatra,” “The Comedy of Errors,” and “As You Like It.”

The national tour is being hosted by one institution in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s passing this year. The tour is a partnership between The Folger Shakespeare Library, Cincinnati Museum Center, and the American Library Association.

“As an institution with a strong history of championing the dramatic classics through our resident theater, Connecticut Repertory Theatre, we are very proud to have the opportunity to host this exhibition for our state,” says Anne D’Alleva, dean of UConn’s School of Fine Arts. “This is an important document in the life of the arts, and for our students and wider community to experience here on campus.”


First Folio, title page.

During the month-long run of the exhibition, UConn will also present a variety of related academic and cultural programming in its venues, including the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, libraries, and lecture halls. The activities will include a Connecticut Repertory Theatre production of a Shakespeare play, workshops for high school English teachers, a festival of Shakespeare in film and popular culture, a puppet adaptation of “Macbeth,” a menu from the Elizabethan era served at the Benton Museum café, and other events.

“UConn is an ideal host for the First Folio exhibition, given its diverse and vibrant community of Renaissance and Reformation scholars,” says Brendan Kane, associate director of UConn’s Humanities Institute and an associate professor of history.

Kane also serves as the University’s faculty representative to the Folger Consortium, a collaborative endeavor of the Folger Shakespeare Library and more than 40 universities in the U.S. and abroad, which UConn joined in 2014. He says

hosting the tour strengthens scholarly links with the Folger, and also demonstrates the University’s ongoing commitment to public humanities and scholarly outreach.

Calendar of First Folio Events

table of contents

Table of contents from the First Folio.

Sept. 1 – Opening reception, keynote address, and 17th century music performance with the UConn Department of Music, Benton Museum.

Sept. 1-25 – “First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare” open for viewing. The Beanery Café will feature Shakespearean era food on its menu at the museum. School tours with museum docents and faculty guides speaking on “Shakespeare and Printing” – Tuesdays through Fridays, 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 1 p.m.

Sept. 1-25 – “Shakespeare at UConn” exhibition opens in adjacent gallery at the Benton Museum, featuring costume pieces, props, and photography from the University of Connecticut and Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s extensive archive of performances.

Sept. 1-25 – “Shakespeare in Film Festival,” weekly throughout the fall semester and beyond. TBD

Sept. 2 – “Outdoor Shakespeare Film” – at dusk (outside of the Benton Museum, played on the side of the Museum).

Sept. 9 – Storrs Center Town Square – “Outdoor Shakespeare Film for Families” at dusk.

old text

‘The Tragedie of Hamlet’ from the First Folio, showing the famous ‘To be or not to be’ passage at the foot of the right-hand page (to enlarge, click on the photo).

Sept. 9 & 10 – Workshops at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry for families and students to build Bread & Puppet-style Shakespearean puppets for “Celebrate Mansfield Day.”

Sept. 10 – “The First Folio for Teachers: Shakespeare’s Text Demystified” 10 a.m.-12 p.m. with Lindsay Cummings, assistant professor of theater studies, Benton Museum.

Sept. 10 – “El Beto,” an original hand-puppet adaptation of Macbeth by Kalob Martinez ’16 MFA set against the Mexican drug cartels, featuring Spanish-English performances.

Sept. 15 – “The Sound of the Folio: Shakespeare’s Original Pronunciation,” led by David Alan Stern, professor of voice, speech, and dialects, will discuss and demonstrate the Early Modern English sound likely heard on the Elizabeth/Jacobean stage. Stern combines his expertise and experience as a Hollywood accent coach with the research of David Crystal, a renowned linguist from the UK, to bring the original sound of the Folio to life.

Sept. 18 – “Celebrate Mansfield Day” – partnering with the Town of Mansfield, the day, which will be focused on families and community, will feature a parade with Bread & Puppet-style Shakespeare puppets paraded through Storrs Center at noon. From 1 to 4 p.m., the Department of Dramatic Arts will perform a series of Shakespeare-focused activities, including a “Sonnet Slam” series of performance recitations of Shakespeare’s sonnets and monologues by the UConn dramatic arts department and E.O. Smith High School students, a Shakespearean period dance demonstration by UConn BFA acting students, and a guided tour and demonstration by UConn’s Department of Art & Art History of its antique printing presses and the printing process to create the Folio.

By: Kenneth Best | Story courtesy of UConn Today

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