The widespread news coverage earlier this year of the discovery in Scotland of a previously unknown first edition of the collected works of William Shakespeare is bringing greater interest to the national traveling exhibition “
First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare” that will be on display at the William Benton Museum of Art at UConn from Sept. 1 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 our students and wider community to experience here on campus.”
The exhibition opens on September 1 with a public reception and remarks by Tony Award nominated actor, Connecticut native and UConn alumnus Forrest McClendon. Forrest McClendon received a Tony Award nomination for his Broadway debut as Mr. Tambo in “The Scottsboro Boys”. Post-Broadway, McClendon received a Barrymore Award for reprising the role at the Philadelphia Theatre Company. He is a Lunt-Fontanne Fellow, and notable regional roles include The Foundling Father in “The America Play” at Zach Scott Theatre for which he received a B. Iden Payne Award as Best Lead Actor in a Play, and Roscoe in “Avenue X” at 11th Hour Theatre Company, for which he received a Barrymore Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical. Most recently, McClendon appeared in the Encores! “Cabin in the Sky” alongside Chuck Cooper, LaChanze and Norm Lewis at City Center and in July as Slank/King Prawn in CRT’s “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
During the month-long run of the exhibition, UConn will also present a variety of related academic and cultural programming in its venues such as 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 related exhibit on “The Culture of Shakespeare” at the Benton, musical performance and other events.
In 2014 UConn joined the Folger Consortium, a collaborative endeavor of the Folger Shakespeare Library and more than 40 universities in the U.S. and abroad, with each member institution contributing to projects that no one of them can accomplish alone.
Brendan Kane, associate director of UConn’s Humanities Institute and an associate professor of history, who serves as the faculty representative to the Folger Consortium, says, “UConn is an ideal host for the First Folio exhibition given its diverse and vibrant community of Renaissance and Reformation scholars. Hosting the tour strengthens scholarly links with the Folger and also demonstrates the University’s ongoing commitment to public humanities and scholarly outreach.”
In celebration of the Folio’s stay at UConn, Connecticut Repertory Theater will open their season with Shakespeare’s King Lear which will play in the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre from October 6-16, 2016. King Lear is a play that has fascinated audiences for more than 400 years and stands as Shakespeare’s most towering achievement. The aging monarch resolves to retire and divide his kingdom. In the process his family and country are torn apart and so begins Lear’s descent into madness. A once proud monarch is forced to wrestle with morality as he confronts his own mortality. As George Bernard Shaw wrote, “No man will ever write a better tragedy than Lear.”
For information go to http://shakespeare.uconn.edu.
First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare, on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library, is a national travelling exhibition organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, to commemorate the 400th anniversary in 2016 of Shakespeare’s death. It is produced in association with the American Library Association and Cincinnati Museum Center. First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare, on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library, has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and by the support of Google.org, The Lord Browne of Madingley, Vinton and Sigrid Cerf, British Council, Stuart and Mimi Rose, Albert and Shirley Small, and other generous donors. To learn more about the First Folio at UConn, visit www.shakespeare.uconn.edu.