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Shakespeare Unlimited

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Washington, D.C.


Home to the world's largest collection of Shakespeare materials. Advancing knowledge and the arts. Discover it all at Shakespeare turns up in the most interesting places—not just literature and the stage, but science and social history as well. Our "Shakespeare Unlimited" podcast explores the fascinating and varied connections between Shakespeare, his works, and the world around us.




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Barry Edelstein: Thinking Shakespeare

How do actors breathe life into Shakespeare’s texts? How do they take language that’s centuries old and make it sound so real and immediate? Barry Edelstein, the Erna Finci Viterbi Artistic Director at The Old Globe in San Diego, is one of the nation’s most experienced Shakespeare directors. Join him for an abbreviated version of Thinking Shakespeare Live!, his master class for acting that pulls back the curtain on the rehearsal room. From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. Published...

Duration: 00:35:04

Shakespeare and War

In his one-man show Cry Havoc! actor Stephan Wolfert, a US Army veteran, draws together lines in Shakespeare’s plays spoken by soldiers and former soldiers—including Macbeth, Othello, and Richard III. He puts those words to the task of explaining the toll that soldiering and war can take on the psyches of the men and women who volunteer for military duty. He is interviewed by Barbara Bogaev. From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. Published September 5, 2017. © Folger Shakespeare...

Duration: 00:35:11

Bernstein, Shakespeare, and West Side Story

Next year, 2018, is the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth. To honor him, we’re taking a look at the creation of "West Side Story," Bernstein’s most significant contribution to the world of Shakespeare. To help us out, we’ve invited in two guests with extensive knowledge. Mark Horowitz is archivist for the Leonard Bernstein Collection at the Library of Congress—nearly 400-thousand items, including music manuscripts, letters, photographs, audio and video recordings, fan mail,...

Duration: 00:31:52

Shakespeare's Kitchen

How and what did the Elizabethans eat? The kitchens of Shakespeare’s time looked very different from our kitchens today, and that’s not all that has changed when it comes to habits of diet, food preparation, and especially, the way food is served. In this episode, noted food historian Francine Segan leads listeners through a recipe for a salmon pie from the 1600s. She is interviewed by Neva Grant. From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. Published August 8, 2017. © Folger Shakespeare...

Duration: 00:32:17

Akala and Hip-Hop Shakespeare

“Is it Shakespeare, or is it hip-hop?” British poet, rapper, and educator Kingslee James Daley, who goes by the stage name Akala, likes to recite a passage and then challenge his audience with this question. Since 2009, under the auspices of his “Hip-hop Shakespeare Company,” Akala has been going to community centers, prisons, and schools in immigrant and underserved communities, using the tools of hip-hop to spread an understanding of the relevance of Shakespeare’s poetry. Akala is...

Duration: 00:33:20

Creating TNT's ‘Will:’ Craig Pearce and Shekhar Kapur

'Will,' the new series on TNT, tells stories derived from what we often call Shakespeare’s “lost years”—the time before he made a name for himself as a writer. The series takes advantage of that gaping hole in Shakespeare’s biography to weave an intricate and exciting tale of art, strife, death, love, poetry, and violence in Elizabethan England. Executive producer/writer Craig Pearce and executive producer/director Shekhar Kapur tell us about adapting Shakespeare's biography—or lack...

Duration: 00:36:43

Phyllida Lloyd and All-Female Shakespeare

In 2012, the Donmar Warehouse presented an all-female production of "Julius Caesar," directed by Tony Award nominated director Phyllida Lloyd and starring Harriet Walter. The production was set in a womens' prison, and was the first of a trilogy of all-female productions that the Guardian would call “one of the most important theatrical events of the past 20 years.” Director Phyllida Lloyd tells us about the productions, from conception to production. She is interviewed by Barbara Bogaev....

Duration: 00:33:54

RSC's Digital Tempest

Twenty-first-century wizardry meets the seventeenth-century kind in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of "The Tempest" with digital effects created by The Imaginarium, a performance-capture company that’s best known for movie and video game animations. RSC Artistic Director Gregory Duran and Ben Lumsden, Imaginarium’s head of studio, are interviewed by Barbara Bogaev. From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. Published June 13, 2017. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights...

Duration: 00:31:31

Tracy Chevalier: New Boy

Tracy Chevalier, author of "Girl With a Pearl Earring," takes on the tragedy of "Othello" in her latest novel, part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series. But in a twist, she moves the action to a public elementary school playground in Washington, DC, in the early 1970s. The book, titled "New Boy," uses its distinctive setting to explore issues of discrimination, betrayal, alienation, and jealousy. In this episode, Tracy talks about the book, her inspirations, and the challenges of working...

Duration: 00:28:17

The Globe to Globe Hamlet Tour

In 2014, Shakespeare’s Globe in London sent a group of actors on a two-year tour to perform "Hamlet" all around the world. They finished on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016, after having traveled 193,000 miles and performed in 197 countries. Dominic Dromgoole, the Globe’s Artistic Director at the time, has written a book about the tour called "Hamlet Globe to Globe." Tom Bird is the Globe’s Executive Producer who managed the tour from London and also traveled to 19 of...

Duration: 00:29:17

Adapting Shakespeare

What exactly counts as a Shakespeare adaptation? And why bother in the first place? In this podcast episode, we talk with three writers who have wrestled with these questions. Craig Wright is a TV writer and showrunner whose play, Melissa Arctic, a retelling of "The Winter’s Tale" set in rural Minnesota, premiered at Folger Theatre in 2004 and went on to play across the country. Chris Stezin’s play "Mac, Beth," which just ended a run at DC’s Keegan Theater, involves a businessman and his...

Duration: 00:35:12

Shakespeare 400 Chicago

To commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016, Chicago mobilized the city’s cultural and administrative resources in an unprecedented way. Barbara Gaines, founder and Artistic Director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, reflects on the "Shakespeare 400 Chicago" anniversary celebration. She was interviewed by Barbara Bogaev. From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. Published April 18, 2017. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. This episode, “In This...

Duration: 00:31:51

The Book of Will

Shakespeare is famous today thanks in no small part to two members of his acting company, John Heminge and Henry Condell, who published a collection of his plays seven years after his death. Lauren Gunderson has written a new play called "The Book of Will" that portrays Heminge and Condell, along with their families and everyone involved in gathering and creating the First Folio. From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. Published April 4, 2017. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All...

Duration: 00:32:40

Juliet's Answer

Starting in the 1930s, people began sending letters asking for advice on love and romance to Verona, Italy—addressed to Juliet. In 2014, a lovelorn Canadian high school teacher traveled to Verona over summer vacation to volunteer as one of “Juliet’s secretaries.” The experience changed his life—and his perspective on Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers. From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. Published February 7, 2017. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. “Any man that...

Duration: 00:32:01

Q Brothers

Since 2002, Gregory and Jeffery Ameen Qaiyum, better known as G.Q. and J.A.Q – the Q Brothers – have been using hip-hop to adapt and update the plays of William Shakespeare. At the time we recorded this podcast, their show Othello: The Remix was running off-Broadway at the Westside Theater. They were interviewed by Barbara Bogaev. From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. Published January 10, 2017. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. “Something Then In Rhyme” was...

Duration: 00:26:14

Shakespeare and YA Fiction

While print sales of adult fiction are down in the last decade, the juvenile market – which includes young adult literature or "YA" – has actually gone up 40 percent. In this episode, two YA authors talk about their writing, their audience, their inspirations, and the role that Shakespeare plays in all of it. Molly Booth’s first novel, "Saving Hamlet," was published in 2016 by Disney-Hyperion. It tells the story of an American teenager who time-travels back to Shakespeare’s Globe during...

Duration: 00:31:40

Stephen Greenblatt on Shakespeare's Life Stories

There are a surprising number of characters in Shakespeare who propose or ask or even demand that someone tell their life’s story. (Think of Hamlet’s dying words to Horatio: “And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain / To tell my story.”) While that may not seem surprising on the face of it – Shakespeare was a storyteller after all – this idea of re-imagining your life so that it tells a story was not a common one in Shakespeare’s time. In this episode of Shakespeare Unlimited,...

Duration: 00:28:35

Shakespeare and Girlhood

How does Shakespeare portray girls and girlhood in his plays, and what do those portrayals tell us about life in Elizabethan and Jacobean England? Our guest for this Shakespeare Unlimited episode, Deanne Williams of York University in Toronto, is the author of Shakespeare and the Performance of Girlhood, published in 2014. She is interviewed by Neva Grant. From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. Published November 1, 2016. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. This...

Duration: 00:27:15

Shakespeare in Sign Language

Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, is the world’s only university designed to be barrier-free for deaf and hard of hearing students. For more than 150 years, its students have been performing Shakespeare without spoken words. This month, the Folger Shakespeare Library’s nationwide First Folio tour stops at Gallaudet, which also has a companion exhibition called “First Folio: Eyes on Shakespeare,” curated by Jill Bradbury, a Gallaudet English professor. In this podcast she takes us on...

Duration: 00:27:07

Shakespeare in Solitary

For ten years, Laura Bates, a professor at Indiana State University, taught Shakespeare to a group of inmates considered the worst of the worst – men incarcerated in the solitary confinement unit at Indiana’s Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. These are, for the most part, prisoners considered so dangerous they were kept apart, even from the other prisoners. Every week, Professor Bates would drive out to the prison, make her way over to solitary confinement and sit down in a space in...

Duration: 00:32:56

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