Here Is a Play Fitted exhibition material

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This article offers a comprehensive list of each piece included in Here Is a Play Fitted: Four Centuries of Staging Shakespeare, one of the Exhibitions at the Folger.

The Earliest Texts & the Unstable Script (cluster 1)

Roughly half of Shakespeare's plays were printed in individual quarto editions before thirty-six of the plays were printed together in the First Folio in 1623. Several quarto plays vary significantly from the version of the same play printed in the Folio. Many scholars have devoted their careers to determining the relationship between the quarto texts and the First Folio: are they early drafts, acting versions, versions used while touring, or separate works? The earliest versions of the plays in this exhibition—Othello, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, and A Midsummer Night's Dream—each reveal a different relationship to the Folio text.

Compare the Romeo and Juliet "potion" scene in the First Folio with the same scene from the first quarto. This first quarto of Romeo and Juliet has been called a "Bad Quarto" because it is nearly 800 lines shorter than the First Folio version. These pages show Juliet’s famous "potion" soliloquy, which is only half as long as the version of the same speech in the Folio. This page also includes the intriguing stage direction, "She falls upon her bed within the curtains," which does not appear in the Folio. The First Folio's version of the same scene runs forty-five lines long.

Early quartos of the four plays examined in this exhibition give us evidence that theater practicioners have always played with and adapted texts.

Items included

Who Changed Shakespeare (cluster 1 wall)

FACSIMILE.

Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Shakespeare: Revision and Adaptation (cluster 2)

Portrait of Colley Cibber, 1808. Folger Digital Image 21383.

Parliament closed the London theaters between 1642 and 1660, during the English civil war and Interregnum. When they reopened at the Restoration of Charles II, Shakespeare’s plays were still popular, but many of the new performance scripts bore little resemblance to the plays Shakespeare wrote. The scripts were cut, altered, and amended to appeal to both theatrical practice and literary taste. In order to suit the actor-managers who ran the playhouses and starred in productions, some scripts were revised to focus more attention on main characters. Other plays were altered to fit the literary demands of “poetic justice,” the neoclassical unities, and decorum.

Colley Cibber (1671–1757) was an actor, playwright, and the manager of Drury Lane Theatre. He heavily adapted Shakespeare’s Richard III in 1699, and placed more emphasis on Richard (the character that Cibber himself played in his production). Cibber kept only a quarter of Shakespeare’s lines, added over a thousand of his own, and included lines from seven other Shakespearean plays. Cibber’s version has an engaging theatrical flow, which made it the standard stage version until the early twentieth century. Cibber's influence can still be seen in Laurence Olivier's version of Richard III.

The Theatre Royal, Smock Alley, in Dublin was one of three Restoration theaters opened when Charles II resumed the throne of England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1660. The Smock Alley promptbook of Othello shows the play as it would have been performed in the theaters in the 1670s and 80s. Notice the cuts to the script made on these pages.

Hear curator Denise A. Walen discuss the cuts made to the Smock Alley promptbook.

Items included

David Garrick's Adaptations (cluster 3)

David Garrick (1717–79), was manager of Drury Lane Theatre, a talented playwright,and England’s first celebrity actor. He organized the Shakespeare Jubilee, the first civic celebration of Shakespeare’s life in Stratford-upon-Avon. His dedication helped establish Shakespeare’s reputation as the finest playwright in the English-speaking world. Despite his reverence for the Bard, Garrick also heavily altered Shakespeare’s plays. His adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, in which he cut some of Shakespeare’s text but also added surprisingly to the play, became the standard acting version in England and the United States for a hundred years, from 1750 through the mid 1800s.

David Garrick adapted Romeo and Juliet for Drury Lane in 1748. He wrote in the preface that he wanted to purge the “jingle and quibble” that marred the play. Of Garrick’s many changes, his most significant was an addition to the tomb scene. Rather than dying instantly after drinking poison, Garrick’s Romeo drinks a slow-working poison that allows him a long exchange—nearly sixty lines of dialogue—with Juliet before he dies.

This image shows David Garrick as Romeo with the actress George Anne Bellamy playing Juliet in the final tomb scene from Garrick’s extended version, which allowed Garrick the opportunity to display a wide range of tragic emotion.

Actors Michael Goldsmith and Kate DeBuys explore the differences between the original Shakespeare and the Garrick adaptation in this video.

For more on Garrick's adaptions, read this article.

Items included

An Actress's Life for Me (cluster 3 wall)

Items included

Romantic Shakespeare: J. P. Kemble and Edmund Kean (cluster 4)

Kemble as Richard III. Folger Digital Image 28631.

The Romantic movement influenced theater in the early nineteenth century just as it influenced other art forms during that time. The careers of John Philip Kemble (1757–1823) and Edmund Kean (1787–1833) perfectly reflect the changing attitudes that specifically affected Shakespearean productions. Kemble was the consummate patrician hero whose productions were stately examples of spectacle and monarchial grandeur. Kean, in contrast, was the passionate rebel, both on and off the stage, who emphasized the social and political prejudices that oppressed his characters. Kemble retired from the theater as Kean gained prominence in parts such as Othello, which contemporary critics considered Kean's greatest role.

Actor John Philip Kemble is shown in this portrait as Richard III which he played as a darkly handsome royal figure rather than a deformed villain. In fact, Sir Walter Scott said Kemble was too "eminently fine" a man to play Richard; that he could never “seem constitutionally villainous” and "could never look the part." Kemble believed that, as a prince, Richard should not be presented as calculating, cruel, or vulgar, which must have made many of his lines difficult to deliver.

Edmund Kean’s performances of Othello were unusual in that he consistently overshadowed any co-star’s portrayal of Iago. It was a perfect role for him as it reflected his inner passion and fury, qualities that made his finest roles seem both dangerous and exciting. Samuel Taylor Coleridge said, "To see him act is like reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning." Unfortunately, heavy drinking and the effects of venereal disease often made him unfit for performance during the last ten years of his life. His last role was at Covent Garden Theatre where he played Othello opposite his son Charles as Iago in 1833. This promptbook notes the spot in the play where Edmund Kean "sank on the neck of his son and was carried off the stage."

Items included

Cluster 4

  • W. Sheldrick. Mr. Kean as Othello Dawn by E.F. Lambert. [Great Britain? : s.n., mid-19th century?]. Colored lithograph. Call number: ART File K24.4 no.59 (size S) and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Elizabeth Cavendish. Autograph letters signed and unsigned from Elizabeth Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, London, to Edmund Kean. Manuscript, 1818 October 14, 20. Call number: Y.c.1427 (1–2) and LUNA Digital Image.
  • George Keating. Mr. Kemble in the character of King Richard the Third, from the original picture in the possesion [sic] of John Pybus, Esq. [England]: John & Josiah Boydell, 1788. Mezzotint. Call number: ART File K31.4 no.52 copy 1 (size M) and LUNA Digital Image.
  • William Shakespeare. King Richard the Third. Promptbook marked by John Philip Kemble for Covent Garden (1811). Call number: PROMPT Rich.III 14 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • William Shakespeare. Othello, the Moor of Venice, a tragedy, revised by J. P. Kemble. London: for T. N. Longman and O. Rees, 1804. Call number: PROMPT Oth. 20; displayed p. 49.
  • John Philip Kemble. Richard III. Autograph manuscript of Kemble's parts in 34 plays in the hand of John Philip Kemble Manuscript, 1783–1805. 34 v. Call number: T.a.13 and LUNA Digital Image.

Playbills: What's on Stage? (cluster 4 wall)

  • Manchester, Theatre-Royal. King Richard III (Mainpiece), The Lying Valet (Afterpiece). [John Philip Kemble as Richard III]. Playbill. 29 May 1798. Call number: Craven playbills: 242062 ART and LUNA Digital Image.
  • London, Covent Garden. The Tragedy of Othello (Mainpiece), A Nabob For an Hour (Afterpiece), and Masaniello (Ballet). [Edmund Kean as Othello]. Playbill. 25 March 1833. Call number: Bill Box G2 C85 1832–33; (image).
  • William Hamilton. John Philip Kemble as Richard IIIOil on panel, ca. 1787. Call number: FPb24 and LUNA Digital Image.

Instructive Shakespeare: William Charles Macready (cluster 5)

By the mid-nineteenth century, Shakespeare productions were seen as an opportunity to educate large audiences through popular culture. William Charles Macready believed that Shakespeare productions should offer audiences the "best illustrated editions" of Shakespeare's plays in order to enhance their instructive purpose. However, the emphasis on scenic effects and the time required to change the scenery meant that scripts were heavily cut and scenes were sometimes rearranged. These productions were typically based on Shakespeare's texts and not on the adaptations that had dominated the theater since the time of the Restoration.

One promptbook contains seven scenic drawings for Macready's production of Othello. The image for act 2, scene 1 is the Citadel of Famagusta on the isle of Cyprus. It consists of three layers: the first panel shows the castle wall and cannons pointing out to sea; the middle panel, a half panel on the left, portrays a castle turret; while the back panel runs the length of the stage and shows the view across the harbor.

During his career, Macready performed the roles of both Iago and Othello. He played Iago less often, but was more successful in that role. No mere stage villain, his Iago was an intellectual fascinated with the diabolic. As Othello, he portrayed a loving husband beset by a scheming but appealing villain. For Victorians like Macready, Iago destroyed the very foundation of culture when he destroyed Othello's domestic harmony.

Also included is the costume design for Emilia from a Macready production of Othello. The design demonstrates Macready's attention to the artistic harmony of the production and its symbolism. The black gown with its vibrant red underskirt calls to mind the black and red robes the senators wore in act 2, but the scarlet also suggests Emilia's easy virtue and earthiness.

Items included

  • William Shakespeare. A midsummer-night's dream. [London: for F. C. and J. Rivington; J. Johnson; R. Baldwin; H. L. Gardner, etc., 1805]. Call number: PROMPT M.N.D. 13; displayed p. 376–384 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • J. Moore. Miss Julia Harland and Miss Conquest as Oberon and Puck. From a daguerreotype by Paine of Islington. London; New York: John Tallis & company, [mid-19th century] Engraving. Call number: ART File H826 no.1 (size XS) and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Mr. Macready as Iago. London: London Printing and Publishing Company, [19th century?]. Call number: ART File M174.4 no.16 (size S) and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Mr. Macready as Othello. From the original painting by Tracey. London and New York: John Tallis & Company. Call number: ART 254958 (size S) and LUNA Digital Image.
  • William Shakespeare. Othello, the Moor of Venice. A tragedy .... [London: Simpkin, Marshall, and Co., 1838]. A transcription of Macready’s Drury Lane book. Call number: PROMPT Oth. 13; displayed p. 15 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • William Shakespeare. Othello scenery. 7 watercolors. Interleaved. Scene designs for a Macready production. Call number: PROMPT Oth. 14 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • William Shakespeare. Costume of Othello. 13 watercolors. Probably drawn and painted by George Ellis. Call number: PROMPT Oth. 15 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Small notebook containing 25 half-length oval paintings of Fanny Kemble as Beatrice, Juliet, Portia, etc. Watercolor on mica, Mid-18th century to early 19th century. Call number: ART Vol. c88 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Edward Wedlake Brayley. Historical and descriptive accounts of the theatres of London. London: for J. Taylor, 1826. Illustrated by Daniel Havell. Call number: PN2596 L6 B8; displayed images of Covent Garden and Drury Lane after p. 92: plate XV.

Antiquarian Shakespeare: Charles Kean (cluster 6)

Costumes for Kean's 1838 performance of Richard III. Folger Digital Image 56222.

Charles Kean was the son of the actor Edmund Kean, but inherited few of his father's fiery traits. In 1850, Charles Kean acquired London's Princess's Theatre, which he managed for nine years. There he staged gorgeous Shakespearean productions that were meticulous in their historical accuracy. Kean's goal in staging these plays was to strive for authenticity in the visual elements. He researched every aspect of the productions so that sets, costumes, and properties correctly reflected the period in which the action was set. While many critics applauded Kean's antiquarian spectacles, the writers at Punch humorously called him the "upholsterer" rather than the "upholder" of Shakespeare.

One of Charles Kean's (1811-68) first great theatrical successes was in 1838 at Drury Lane in the role of Richard III. As a young actor, he followed the stylized form of his father, Edmund Kean, but later developed a more realistic style devoid of obvious stage conventions such as signaling emotions with hand gestures. He researched his characters for realism and presented uniquely individual, complex characters. his lavish production of Richard III included nineteen changes of scenery.

This promptbook records Charles Kean's 1854 production of Richard III, in which he used Colley Cibber's adaptation. The stage direction on the top of the right-hand page notes that on his line "Who's there," Kean "starting back, staggers to wing," that is, he staggers over to the first exit on the left-hand side of the stage. This was a moment that critics and audiences acclaimed because of the emotion Kean displayed. This page also shows the growing military presence of both Richard and Richmond's armies in preparation for Kean's spectacular battle at Bosworth Field.

Items included

Cluster 6

  • Mr. C. Kean as Richard 3rd. London: A. Park, [between 1835 and 1863]. Call number: ART 242665s and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Charles John Kean. Note by Charles John Kean of theatrical costumes worn ca. 1850–1859. Manuscript, 19th century. Call number: W.a.10 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Charles John Kean. Cues, properties and stage directions for 19 plays of Charles John Kean. Manuscript, ca. 1855. Call number: T.b.15; displayed p. 22.
  • Incidental music for Richard III. Manuscript, 1860s? Call number: Y.d.688 (3) and LUNA Digital Copy.
  • William Shakespeare. King Richard the Third. A tragedy. Adapted by Colley Cibber. Final or souvenir promptbook for Charles Kean 1854 production. Call number: PROMPT Rich III 10; displayed p. 62 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Charles Hamilton Smith. A collection of watercolor drawings and tracings of theatrical costume, arms, banners, shields, etc., drawn especially for Charles Kean's productions at the Princess's and Haymarket theatres. 19th century. Call number: ART Vol. d3 and LUNA Digital Image.

Set Designs for Richard III (cluster 6 wall)

  • Princess's Theatre. Charles Kean. The original water color drawings from which the scenery used by Charles Kean in his Shakespearian and other productions was executed. Watercolor, 19th century. Call number: ART Vol. d16 and LUNA Digital Image.

Four Juliets and a Romeo (cluster 7 wall)

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Pictorial Shakespeare: Henry Irving and Herbert Beerbohm Tree (cluster 7)

Ellen Terry as Juliet, 1882. Folger Digital Image 24370.

The height of pictorialism came at the end of the nineteenth century and may be seen in the realistic productions of Henry Irving (1838–1905) and Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1852–1917). Irving began managing London's Lyceum Theatre in 1878 and mounted a series of lavish productions there. The three-dimensional sets he built and the time it took to change those sets required that Irving cut the scripts even more severely than his predecessors. Tree managed Her Majesty's Theatre and mounted sixteen extremely popular productions of Shakespeare in the early twentieth century. Both men's productions were noted for their spectacle, scenic effects, and realistic touches.

This promptbook records Herbert Beerbohm Tree's 1911 revival of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which he presented as the actor-manager of His Majesty's Theatre (Her Majesty's before the Edwardian Era). Tree used modern, realistic scenic effects, including a live rabbit at the opening of act 2 (mentioned in the stage directions opposite page 11).

The program pictured here shows that Henry Irving had at least seventeen different three dimensional sets for the twenty-two scenes in his production of Romeo and Juliet, created by three different set designers: Craven, Cuthbert, and Telbin. The intervals between the acts took at least half an hour. Add to that the time it took to change each scene, and it's no wonder he cut so much of the script.

Listen to curator Denise A. Welan discuss Trees's live stage rabbits.

Items included

Shakespeare in the United States: Edwin Booth and Augustin Daly (cluster 8)

The late nineteenth century was a golden age for Shakespeare in the United States, and two of its most prominent practitioners were the actor-manager Edwin Booth (1833–93) and the impresario Augustin Daly (1838–99). Both Booth and Daly worked closely with influential theater critic and editor William Winter (1836–1917) to create printed editions based on their productions. By publishing acting editions of the plays, Booth and Daly attempted to align themselves in the list of prominent Shakespearean theater professionals, from Garrick on, who preceded them. Their editions demonstrate an eagerness to cut the plays so that the scripts focus on action, which they believed was central to performance.

Edwin Booth wore this surcoat over a set of armor during the Battle of Bosworth Field in the final scenes of his productions of Richard III. The surcoat is decorated with the royal arms of England. Note that the back of one shoulder is padded, which was typical of the stage representation of Richard as a hunchback. For more on Edwin Booth's tunic, watch this video.

Theater manager Augustin Daly had large extra-illustrated versions of his acting editions created as stunning mementos of his productions. In his copy of A Midsummer Night's Dream we see two almost-identical images from Daly's 1888 production, with Effie Shannon as Titania and James Lewis as Bottom transformed into an Ass. Lewis could manipulate the ears, eyes, and mouth of the Ass's head using strings under his costume.

Critic William Winter edited acting editions for both Edwin Booth and Augustin Daly. When Daly apologized for the heavy cuts he was making to comedies like A Midsummer Night's Dream, Winter offered him a surprising justification, writing that it is impossible, and impractical, to act Shakespeare's plays as he wrote them.

Items included

Early Twentieth-Century Shakespeare: Sothern and Marlowe (cluster 9)

Costume worn by E.H. Sothern as Romeo in an early 20th-century production. Folger Digital Image 56677.

By the early twentieth century, Shakespeare had fallen out of popularity in the United States, in part because of a perception that Shakespeare was the province of a refined, wealthy, and educated audience, and in part because producers had trouble placing his plays in a modern aesthetic. World War I also contributed to the decline. Lack of demand for Shakespearean performance meant that a handful of actors was able to fill the small commercial niche for productions. Julia Marlowe (1866–1950) and E. H. Sothern (1859–1933) toured North America from 1904 through 1924 with a Shakespearean repertory, and became the major Shakespearean actors in the United States in the early twentieth century. Their production of Romeo and Juliet was seen across the country and became the prevailing rendition of the play for a generation.

One of many promptbooks belonging to the Marlowe/Sothern Romeo and Juliet shows a clean, unmarked record of their production. Marlowe exercised creative control over the production and on this page you can see her careful staging of the opening fight between the Montagues and Capulets. If the stage directions had not been typed in red, the dialogue would be difficult to locate.

Julia Marlowe was physically beautiful and had a lovely rich contralto voice that suited her Shakespearean performances. However, Marlowe was caught in a transitional phase. She was innovative in relation to her predecessors, but never fully embraced the realistic acting principles that audiences expected by the 1920s.

By the time Marlowe and Sothern retired in 1924, the modernist movement had embraced Shakespeare, and productions were again in wide demand.

Items included

  • Costume worn by E. H. Sothern in the role of Romeo. Red and green cap with feather Black silk brocade doublet, gold and red brocade insert at neck. Early 20th century. Call number: 2-7-16-151 Sot. & 2-7-16-31 Sot. and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Costume worn by Julia Marlowe in the role of Juliet. White silk velvet and iridescent scale dress. Early 20th century. Call number: 2-7-16-159 Mar and LUNA Digital Image.
  • William Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet. [n.d.] (Typescript). Unused, clean first copy. Records Sothern-Marlowe productions. Call number: PROMPT Rom. Fo.2; displayed p. 7.
  • Autograph and typescript letters signed from and to Julia Marlowe, New York, and H.C. Folger, New York. Manuscript, 1904. Call number: Y.c.5502 (1–2) and Video regarding the correspondance and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Various poses of Julia Marlowe in costume in Shakespearean and non-Shakespearean roles. Photographs. Late 19th century or early 20th century. Call number: ART File M349.5 no.20–no.78 PHOTO size (XS); displayed no.78 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Sword belonging to E. H. Sothern used in Romeo and Juliet. Call number: 2-26-42-2 Sot (1) and LUNA Digital Image.
  • M. E. McGarry. Stage-lighting guide for Sothern and Marlowe productions of Twelfth Night, Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, Merchant of Venice, and Romeo and Juliet. Manuscript, 19th or 20th century. Call number: T.a.81-82 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • 7 photographs of a production of Romeo and Juliet starring E.H. Sothern and Julia Marlowe. New York: Hall's Studio, 1904. Call number: ART File S717.5 no.24–no.30 PHOTO (size M); displayed no.25, no.28, and no.30 and LUNA Digital Image.

Modern Movements in Shakespeare (cluster 10)

By the 1930s, Shakespeare productions were regularly influenced by modern social concepts and theatrical innovations. The use of modern unit or modular sets meant that uncut versions of Shakespeare could be presented to an audience because scene changes required less time. The theater also reflected an emergent awareness of multiculturalism and racial politics in the period surrounding the Second World War. These phenomena may be seen in the two significant productions of Othello that starred actor Paul Robeson.

It took more than a decade after his London performance before Paul Robeson played Othello in the United States, in a production directed by Margaret Webster for the Theatre Guild. His presence onstage was majestic, and, according to a New York newspaper, Robeson made Othello "the great and terrible figure of tragedy which he has so rarely been on the stage." Robeson was the first black actor in the United States ever to be seen in the role in a major production of the play. Robeson was the son of a former slave and began his stage career in 1924 after earning degrees from Rutgers and Columbia Law School. By the time of his performance in Othello, he was an internationally known concert singer and actor. His performance of Othello is considered a theatrical landmark.

Robeson's Othello opened at the Shubert Theatre to almost ecstatic reviews, ran for nearly a year, and, at the time, was the longest running Broadway production of a Shakespeare play. During the 1944/45 season, the production went on tour and became a phenomenon seen by nearly half a million people.

Hear commentary from curator Denise A. Walen—as well as a recording of Robeson himself!

Items included

  • William Shakespeare. The tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. Souvenir promptbook with Paul Robeson as Othello, Maurice Browne as Iago, and Peggy Ashcroft as Desdemona. Call number: PROMPT Oth. Fo.2; displayed p. 129v–130 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Paul Robeson as Othello, Act I scene 4. Production photograph, circa 1944. Call number: ART 254052 (size S) and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Carl Van Vechten. Portrait photograph of Paul Robeson as Othello. Silver gelatin photographic print. New York, 1944. Call number: ART 251518 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Robert Edmond Jones. Costume design for Paul Robeson as "Othello". Ink and gouache drawing with fabric swatches attached, 1943. Call number: ART Box J79 no. 1 and LUNA Digital Image. Gift of James O. Belden in memory of Evelyn Berry Belden.
  • Paul Robeson as Othello, the Moor of Venice. Souvenir Program. New York: Theatre Guild, 1943. Call number: ART Vol. e248; displayed cover.
  • Susan Robeson. The whole world in his hands: a pictorial biography of Paul Robeson. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press, 1981. Call number: E185.97.R63 R62 1990; displayed images from p. 144, p. 146, and p. 151.

Cinematic Shakespeare (cluster 11)

Part of the 1954 shooting script for Laurence Olivier's Richard III. Folger Digital Image 56202.

The first Shakespeare films, short and silent, appeared on screen as early as 1899. While Shakespeare's plays have been adapted into hundreds of movies, few are scrupulously faithful to the texts. Given that film tells a story primarily through visual images, the text is not as important as the screen picture. The great Shakespearean actor Laurence Olivier cut and adapted Richard III for his celebrated movie of the play. Modern screen versions of Richard III by Ian McKellen and Al Pacino take even more liberties with the script and setting as they find in the play a resonance with modern issues.

Laurence Olivier first arranged a stage production of Richard III at the Old Vic in 1945, and followed that with his celebrated film version in 1955. Two nondescript preparation copies show that Olivier not only cut the script heavily—what Life magazine called “felicitously streamlined for action”—he also adapted it for performance, adding in non-Shakespearean lines like Colley Cibber’s infamous “Off with his head, so much for Buckingham.”

Ian McKellen’s 1995 Richard III is set in 1936 and references the rise of fascist regimes and uses the style of action movies and early Hollywood gangster films. What McKellen gained in cinematic vitality from these techniques he lost in textual authority. His script is a massively cut adaptation—insufficiently Shakespearean according to critics—but a terrific film in its own right.

Going a step further is Al Pacino's documentary Looking for Richard—the film is derived from Shakespeare, and connects acted scenes from the play with interviews between actors, scholars, and people on the street. Having played the character twice on stage, Pacino investigates the relevance of the play and its main character for a late twentieth-century audience.

Listen to curator Denise A. Walen discuss Olivier's cuts and revisions to Richard III.

Items included

  • Promotion package for MGM motion picture Richard III, starring Ian McKellen and Annette Bening. Santa Monica, CA: MGM/United Artists, 1995. Call number: 248964.
  • Press kit for Looking for Richard, a film by Al Pacino. Beverly Hills, CA: Fox Searchlight Pictures, 1997. Call number: ART Vol. e131. no. 2.
  • William Shakespeare. King Richard III Edited by M.R. Ridley. London: J.M. Dent & Sons; New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1935. Call number: 266587 and 266588 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Richard III shooting script, starring Laurence Olivier. Manuscript, July 19, 1954. Call number: W.b.639; displayed p. 4r.
  • William Shakespeare's Richard III, with Laurence Olivier and Claire Bloom. Scrapbook, ca. 1956. Call number: Scrapbook 258441.

Director's Shakespeare (cluster 12)

The role of the stage director emerged only at the end of the nineteenth century. Today directors collaborate in every aspect of a production, and since about the 1950s have increasingly brought the elements of costume, lighting, set, and sound together around a central concept meant to illuminate issues or ideas for a contemporary audience. In order to achieve that concept, directors and designers may relocate the play to an unlocalized setting or to a historical period different from the story. In the 2006 Folger Theatre production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Joe Banno set the play as a frantic and frothy Busby Berkeley-esque 1930s musical comedy with an ingenious upstairs/downstairs twist.

Erhard Rom designed the set for the Folger production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, one that not only recalled the style and luxury of the early twentieth century, but also paid tribute to the Folger Shakespeare Library, built in 1932 at the height of the Art Deco movement. Rom integrated the Folger's elegant exterior elements into the set design, which also featured a large central bed, descending from above, as Titania's bower.

Costume designer Kate Turner-Walker rendered designs for the Folger production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. In the production, the three formally attired maids serve the wealthy patrician, Hippolyta. When the characters succumb to a dream-like sleep at the end of act 1, Hippolyta becomes the Fairy Queen, Titania. The maids also transform into Titania's three Fairies, so costumes were designed to follow these transitions.

Items included

  • Costume worn by Deborah Hazlett in the role of Titania, designed by Kate Turner-Walker. A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Joe Banno, Folger Theatre, 2006.
  • Translucent head of Donkey, designed and executed by Marie Schneganberger. A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Joe Banno, Folger Theatre, 2006.
  • Production photo of Puck and the Fairies by Carol Pratt. A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Joe Banno, Folger Theatre, 2006. Image gallery.
  • Production photo of Dance Line by Carol Pratt. A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Joe Banno, Folger Theatre, 2006. Image.
  • Production photo of the "rude mechanicals" by Carol Pratt. A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Joe Banno, Folger Theatre, 2006. Image.
  • Callscript, A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Joe Banno, Folger Theatre, 2006.
  • Performance Report #45, by Taryn J. Colberg. A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Joe Banno, Folger Theatre, 2006.
  • Production photo of Titania and Oberon by Carol Pratt. A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Joe Banno, Folger Theatre, 2006.
  • Floor Plan and Front Elevation and Deck Plan, by Erhard Rom. A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Joe Banno, Folger Theatre, 2006.
  • Maids Costume design, Titania Costume design, and Fairies Costume design, by Kate Turner-Walker. A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Joe Banno, Folger Theatre, 2006.

Contemporary Adaptation: Lynn Redgrave (cluster 13)

The powerful cultural capital Shakespeare’ plays possess and, in some sense, the common understanding audiences have of the plays, make them an ideal foundation from which to communicate new ideas, or to sharpen and deepen an impression. Adaptations come in infinite varieties. In her Tony-nominated performance of Shakespeare for My Father, Lynn Redgrave used scenes and monologues from a number of Shakespeare's plays to create a complex and emotionally honest assessment of her relationship with her father, the great actor Sir Michael Redgrave. Audiences were deeply moved by the play’s touching portrayal of a daughter coming to terms with her reserved and distant father.

When Lynn Redgrave was invited by the Folger to present a night of Shakespeare readings and reminiscences, she created the first version of the script that would eventually become her highly acclaimed one-woman play, Shakespeare for My Father.

The play was received well, with critics applauding Redgrave's stunning ability to present the diverse characters in the play's twenty-one scenes. Reviewers found the play humorous, hauntingly painful, and full of forgiveness.

Redgrave presented Shakespeare for My Father on a national tour, on Broadway, in Australia, and at London's Haymarket Theatre. She played all the roles herself, presenting both the gleeful, girlish Juliet and her much older, somewhat weary nurse, a wonderful contrast in types and one of the highlights of the evening.

For more on this adaptation, watch this video.

In conjunction with this exhibition, Kathleen Chafant performed Shakespeare for My Father on November 11, 2013 in the Folger's Elizabethan Theatre as part of the Talks and Screenings at the Folger.

Items included

  • Lynn Redgrave Papers and Archive. Souvenir program, Shakespeare for My Father, 1993; displayed p. 2–3. Call number: 266967, Box 36.
  • Lynn Redgrave Papers and Archive. Program from original Folger Reading, An Evening with Lynn Redgrave, 1991. Call number: 266967, Box 8c.
  • Lynn Redgrave Papers and Archive. Programs. Call number: 266967, Box 36.
  • Lynn Redgrave Papers and Archive. Red Ring binder, Shakespeare for My Father, Rehearsal script 1996; displayed p. 10. Call number: 266967, Box 2.
  • Lynn Redgrave Papers and Archive. Color production photo, Shakespeare for My Father, 1996. Call number: 266967, Box 8a.
  • Lynn Redgrave Papers and Archive. Promptbook, Shakespeare for My Father, Helen Hayes Theatre, 1993. Call number: 266967, Box 36.
  • Lynn Redgrave Papers, Hirschfeld image. Call number: 266967, Box 36.

Shakespeare in the Twenty-First Century (cluster 14)

Shakespeare productions in the twenty-first century continue to find cultural relevance within the plays. Folger Theatre's 2011 production of Othello, directed by Robert Richmond, is a case in point. The production set the play during the Crusades of the twelfth century, cast Othello as a Knight Templar, and evoked the tensions between an expanding, militant Christianity on the one hand, and an expanding, militant Islam on the other. In the production, religious issues took on a heightened importance and made the racial tensions more complex. Actor Luis Butelli explores this more in a blog post for the Folger Theatre Production Diary. Today's religious frictions made this approach resonate with audiences.

Tony Cisek designed the set for Folger's 2011 Othello. At the opening of the second act, the somber Venetian court is miraculously transformed by brilliantly colored Persian carpets, boldly illuminated curtains in vibrant purple and orange, ornate pillows, and opulently cushioned ottoman poufs. This space functioned equally well as a souk, a battle tent, and Othello’s private quarters in Cyprus.

Director Robert Richmond cut many lines from the first act of the play in order to quicken the pace of the production and tighten the action. Richmond wanted to move the production quickly from Venice to Cyprus, where the action is more intense.

Items included

  • Cape by costume designer, William Ivey Long. Othello, directed by Robert Richmond, Folger Theatre, 2011.