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Folger Theatre Hosts ‘The Reading Room’ at Reformation

Folger Theatre is starting the new year with two new series hosted at Capitol Hill landmarks this month.

The first is The Reading Room, running from Jan. 19 to 21 at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation (212 E. Capitol St. NE, right across from the Folger). The Reading Room is a new play festival featuring works inspired by, in response to, or in conversation with the plays of William Shakespeare. There will be four premiere readings, each followed by a moderated conversation with the playwrights and directors and questions from the audience.

On the heels of The Reading Room, the Folger will produce Works in Progress, a week-long series of workshops and talks that will run from Jan. 24 to 29 in partnership with, and located at the Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE). Aspiring artists in the fields of playwriting, poetry, and songwriting will be invited 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.

The two series are examples of ways 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.”

Get Details on The Reading Room series below.

The Reading Room: Jan. 19 to 21, Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE)

The Reading Room features world premiere works inspired by the plays of Shakespeare. The festival features new 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 – 21, 2023. In addition to the staged readings, there are additional conversations with scholars and theater artists throughout the week.


By William Shakespeare

Bilingual adaptation by Reynaldo Piniella and Emily Lyon

Translation by Christin Eve Cato

Directed by Tatiana Pandiani

Thursday, Jan.19, 2023 at 7:30 p.m.

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, Jan. 20, 2023 at 7:30 p.m.

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, Jan. 21, 2023 at 2 p.m.

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, Jan. 21, 2023 at 7:30 p.m.

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, Jan. 21 at 11:00am

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

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

Check the Folger website at www.folger.edu/events/the-reading-room for schedule and additional information.

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, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital (921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE). Panelists include Teri Ellen Cross Davis, Erin Frisby, Caleen Sinnette Jennings, and Kim Roberts is available to workshop participants at no extra cost.

Teaching workshops take place over three weekday evenings held Jan. 25 – 27, 2023 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 like 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, Jan. 25 at 6:30 p.m. or virtually over Zoom on Thursday, Jan. 26 at 6:30 p.m.

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, Jan. 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 p.m. or virtually over Zoom on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 6:30 p.m.

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, Jan. 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 6:30pm or virtually over Zoom on Friday, Jan. 27 at 6:30 p.m.

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