By Aliyah Kiesler
As many members of the Drew community know, Drew University was chosen to be the only host in New Jersey to hold Shakespeare’s First Folio. “First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare” is a national travelling exhibition organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. What makes the folio so unique is that this First Folio, which was assembled in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, includes 36 of his plays—18 of which had never before been published. Without it, “Julius Caesar,” “Macbeth,” “As You Like It,” “The Tempest” and more could have been lost. It is planned to travel all 50 states in the United States, and its New Jersey events started with the Opening Ceremonies that occurred earlier this month in Drew. Bonnie Monte, the Artistic Director of The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, started off the ceremony with a brief speech.
Madeleine Blossom (’18), a docent for the Folio, said that Monte had said “the paper that was used was made out of old rags from the clothes and scraps of the common people, dissolved… into the thin pieces of paper.” Monte continued by saying that the First Folio “was printed on the backs of the people that these stories were written about.”
After the Opening Ceremonies, three new exhibits opened during the first week of October. These exhibits include “Books in the Time of Shakespeare,” curated by Cassie Brand, “Will and the Word,” curated by the students from a Drew course (Shakespeare’s England: Religion, Society and Printing, and “Richard III” on Page and Stage: Illustrating Actors in the Role), and lastly “1745 – 1900” which was curated by Kim Rhodes and Cassie Brand with the assistance of Caitlin Shannon. Another event that is a must see this month is the production of “Hamlet,” which is going up on from Oct. 19 – 22 and from Oct. 26 – 29.
Generally, all thought that the whole experience was incredibly moving. Most people mentioned that having at least a month to dedicated to commemorate a person’s magnificent talent. Adding on to this, many also shared how remarkable it is for Shakespeare’s work to remain relevant to the contemporary audience despite how much time has passed. Blossom gave an example of Shakespeare’s apparent influence,“the idea of standing next to a book that was created in a time that we can’t even imagine anymore is breathtaking” she said. Many audiences, including Blossom herself, find it inspiring to be apart of such a classic play like “Hamlet.” Whether if one is a theatre major, an english major or anything in between, the folio is a moment to take advantage of to find inspirations.
If you have any questions about the Folio, please contact Kim Rhodes at firstname.lastname@example.org. Come out and support your Drew community by going to view the Folio and attending “Hamlet!”