First Folio: World's second-most important book heading to Boulder

First Folio Shakespeare Boulder

Theatregoers who are intrigued by the upcoming world premiere of the DCPA Theatre Company’s The Book of Will should be interested in a new public exhibition on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library coming to Boulder.

First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare will be displayed from Aug. 9-31 at the University of Colorado Art Museum in Boulder. CU has been honoring the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death throughout the year with more than 40 events and exhibitions.

Arguably the most influential book in history after the Bible, the First Folio includes 36 Shakespeare plays, 18 of which had never before been printed. Without the First Folio, all of those plays – including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, As You Like It and more – might have been lost forever. Compiled by two of his friends and fellow theater colleagues, the First Folio was published in 1623 – seven years after Shakespeare’s death.

And wouldn’t you know, that story happens to be the focus of Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will, opening in January at the DCPA’s Ricketson Theatre. Gunderson recounts the trials and tribulations in getting Shakespeare’s plays published against all odds.

Register for a First Folio viewing time in Boulder

Actors John Heminges and Henry Condell, the two remaining founding members of Shakespeare’s original theatre company, realized after the Bard’s death that many of the texts were on the verge of being lost forever. In the play these two men, along with their wives and Heminges’ daughter Alice, decide to gather all of his plays and have them printed in a single volume. Sounds easy enough, but in those days contemporary plays were not yet considered literature. And, as a result, Shakespeare had not carefully preserved his manuscripts, many of which had already been lost or misplaced.

“It’s a play about friendship, about brotherhood and sisterhood, and love and loss,” Gunderson says, “so it felt like a great story for theatre and of theatre.”

Book of Will Lauren GundersonOn Aug. 9, the First Folio will be opened in Boulder to the most-quoted line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “To be or not to be.” The exhibit will explore Shakespeare’s impact, then and now, accompanied by digital content and interactive activities for all ages that will explore topics such as comic books, Elizabethan food, and the music, art and science of Shakespeare’s time.

(Pictured: ‘The Book of Will’ was featured at the DCPA’s 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. It was then chosen for a full production on the mainstage season next January. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

“This touring exhibit is an opportunity to bring the campus’s expertise together with community talents and the creative energies of students to explore the world of Shakespeare,” said Deborah Hollis, an associate professor from University Libraries at CU-Boulder. “The citizens of Colorado will be in for a treat with musical, artistic and literary performances and public lectures.” 

The exhibit will be of great interest to the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, which is this week wrapping up its 69th season.

“The majority of the work produced by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival is from the First Folio, and we are thrilled at the prospect of having it on campus,” said Producing Artistic Director Timothy Orr.  “To be able to see the original source of our work, and learn more about it from our partnering campus colleagues, will be really exciting.”

Thanks to the First Folio, generations have experienced Shakespeare’s lasting influence on language, culture, theater, music, education and more. There are 233 known copies in the world today, with 82 copies held by the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

A First Folio sold for $6.2 million in 2001 at Christie’s and another for $5.2 million in 2006 in London. It originally sold for 1 British pound (20 shillings) — about $200 today.

“At the Folger Shakespeare Library, we’re looking forward to taking the books out of our vaults in 2016 and on the road,” said library Director Michael Witmore. “We’re excited to see the many different ways that communities across the country will be celebrating Shakespeare — in performances, poetry slams, lectures and more.”

CU-Boulder collaborators who worked to bring the First Folio to campus include the Center for British and Irish Studies, the College of Music, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, CU Art Museum, University Libraries and the departments of English, History and Theatre and Dance.

Register for a First Folio viewing time in Boulder

The First Folio book tour has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and by support from and Vinton and Sigrid Cerf.

Other highlights of “Shakespeare at CU”:

  • Mysterium Tremendum: Collecting Curiosity (Aug. 9-Dec. 17, CU Art Museum) is an installation by Matt Barton in collaboration with Scott Johnson inspired by the arrival of Shakespeare’s First Folio at CU-Boulder. The installation celebrates the important roles curiosity and wonder play in the pursuit of knowledge from the Renaissance to today and includes a “cabinet of curiosities” featuring materials from University Libraries’ Special Collections & Archives, CU-Boulder departments and research centers.
  • Speak the Speech: Colorado’s All-Stars Perform Shakespeare’s All-Star Speeches (Aug. 25, 5 p.m., CU Art Museum).
  • Shakespeare and the Stars (Aug. 26, 7 p.m., Fiske Planetarium) combines passages from Shakespeare’s texts referring to the heavens, “the great globe itself,” with scientific explanations of the celestial phenomena against the backdrop of the spectacular Fiske Planetarium.
  • “Staging Shakespeare in a War Zone: Values and Consequences” (Aug. 29, 5-7 p.m., University Theatre) is a lecture by Qais Akbar Omar, author of A Night in the Emperor’s Garden.

Our video interview with ‘The Book of Will’ playwright Lauren Gunderson.

5_book_of_will_030716The Book of Will:

Without William Shakespeare, we wouldn’t have literary masterpieces like Romeo and Juliet. But without Henry Condell and John Heminges, we would have lost half of Shakespeare’s plays forever. After the death of their friend and mentor, the two actors are determined to compile the first folio and preserve the words that shaped their lives. They’ll just have to borrow, beg and band together to get it done. Shakespeare-lover Lauren Gunderson weaves a comic and heartfelt story of the characters behind the collected stories we know so well.

• By Lauren Gunderson (DCPA Theatre Company Commission)
• Jan. 13-Feb. 26, 2017
• Ricketson Theatre
• ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: 1:30 p.m. Feb. 4
• Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
• Groups: Call 303-446-4829

Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Book of Will
Shakespeare in a season without Shakespeare
Read our interview with playwright Lauren Gunderson