The Folger Spotlight

What's On at the Folger


Hello, blogfriends. It’s Louis/Roderigo from Folger’s Othello, writing you with another dispatch from the frontlines.

On Tuesday night, we had our very first preview for a real-life, living and breathing audience! We were terrified, but they really seemed to dig it. It was a “pay what you can” night, and people were lining up around the block starting around 5pm. They were a gorgeous crowd and, if I didn’t have to be in the show, I’d have loved to have hung out with them on the marble steps of the Folger. And perhaps sell them some beaded necklaces and hot dogs. Note to Folger Gift Shop: get necklaces and hot dogs.

Last night we had our second preview. They “paid what they couldn’t,” I suppose, and it was absolutely amazing. A student contingent was visibly in attendance and, as always when students are in the house, things are vibrant, and unexpected. It is amazing, if unsettling, when people shout, “Woooo!!!” at a curtain call—and that is exactly what they did last night.

Tonight at 7:30pm, we have yet another preview. Come and see it!!

Photo ©2011 Carol Pratt

Previews have been amazing, and our production has stepped up several orders of magnitude, just because you, the audience, have finally been there. Or will be there soon. Or are reading this, and are sending us your positive brainwaves, which we will harvest through the internet. Yes, we are harvesting your brainwaves through the internet. Smile!

In all seriousness, this production has been through a lot: getting to know each other, text analysis and dramaturgy, rehearsal in all of its many guises, a huge beast of a Tech, errors and successes, meltdowns and triumphs, etcetera. Now, we’re moving to the next level. Having your company at the theater is the whole point, really. And now that you’re here, we’re incredibly excited to learn from you. Your presence this week helps us to fully understand the story that we’re telling.

We know what we’ve been up to for the past four weeks, but this is your first time. We need you to tell us what to do next. We hear and feel you when you respond, and we adjust accordingly, sometimes on the fly, as it happens. We’re telling this story for you—with you!—and your participation and response has a genuine impact on what the production is, ultimately. That is what the theater does that no other narrative medium can do: celebrate presence.

All of us together—we breathe the same air, we smell the same sweat, we occupy the same space, we find each other, and we take hold of the tiny and inscrutable junctions wherein we can, for a short time, agree to be “We.”

Come and be with us! We have four more previews!

A couple of quick things:

1. In case you missed it, I posted a vaguely amusing video about the fights and weapons in the show last time. You can still see that video in my previous post.

2. I am still planning a “Women of Othello” post, but I need your help. Would you prefer to read an interview, or watch a video? Comment below, and I will comply with your desire.

3. Making videos is great fun. What other videos would you like to see? Comment below!

4. Celebrity news: Patrick Stewart was visiting the Library yesterday afternoon and popped in to pay us a visit in the theater!!! I wasn’t quick enough with a camera, but will see if anyone in the company managed to snap a photo. Prospero! Macbeth! Jean-Luc Picard! Professor X! I mean, right?? The man is amazing, and it was kind of him to take a minute to say hi.

5. Thank you for reading, if you are.

Get your tickets to Othello now!!!


  • The show was spectacular last night! (BTW, I was one of the wooo-er’s… that’s how I roll!) I was intrigued most by the surprising use of comedy; I loved it! There were some lines delivered in which I thought to myself, I never thought of saying/reading it THAT way? Sweet!!! The care of the lines, infections and body movements… each member of the cast ‘tuned-in’ to Shakespeare’s hidden directorial cues, yet ever so often there was this modern spin with humor, almost bringing more depth to the lines. Could you perhaps expand on this?

  • @Suzanne. Thank you sooo much! And thank you for “woo-ing.” You made alot of tired actors very, very happy. 🙂

    On comedy in Othello. It’s silly to say, but comedy and tragedy – those pillars of drama, whose masks are the embarrassing tattoo I got when I was 18 – shouldn’t really be taken separately. As Sinatra might say, “you can’t have one without the other.” I will spare you a very lengthy and unbearably nerdy polemic at this point and limit myself to a couple of thoughts.

    1. In Shakespeare, during any evening that ends with a heap of bodies on the floor, the journey toward said heap is both complex and inevitable. Genius that he was, Will knew that the way to maximum impact lay in exposing us both to great highs and great lows. If we’ve spent time enjoying the company of one of the bodies on the heap, their presence on the heap is that much more, well, tragic. Hamlet nothwithstanding, I think we’re more saddened by the loss of the less mopey. This is an oversimplification, to be sure. Just remember I’m trying to avoid nerdy polemic here.

    2. We laugh for a wide variety of reasons. There is schadenfreude – laughing at other people’s misfortune. There is so-called “Duchenne laughter” – which is so nerdy that I won’t even get into it, apart from to say it’s evolution-based and we do it to demonstrate being part of “us” as opposed to “them.” There is laughter of incongruity – things that don’t match, or are surprising in some way. Then there is the laughter of discomfort. In an evening of tragedy, we often laugh to release tension. To try and “heal ourselves,” in a sense.

    3. It’s interesting that you used the word “modern” in conjunction with the humor. My guess here is that your perception of modern-ness in those places was rooted less in something that we were doing…and more in something that you were doing. You were listening, you were engaging your imagination, and you were invested in story and character. That made the 12th century costumes and the 408 year old play, in essence, go away. That, in fact, was our goal. I find it enormously touching and gratifying that our Othello did the trick for you. Definitely tell a friend. 🙂

    This ended up as nerdy polemic anyway. Sorry bout that. Thanks for reading.

  • Bought tickets today for a later show in the run. I’m late to theater and after some relative highs and some lows Henry VIII at the Folger made me realize how great a performance/staging can be. Absolutely looking forward to seeing this play! Thanks for posting this stuff – I have had fun reading.

  • @Matt. What excellent news! Thanks for coming to Henry, thanks for reading, and big, giant thanks for picking up tix for Othello. I think you’re really gonna dig. “Theater latecomers” are the best – so long as they’re not the kind who don’t show up on time for the actual show. (Take note: bad pun fully deployed.) Stick around and say ‘hi’ afterwards if you feel like it.


  • Loved, loved, loved tonight’s performance! Fantastic in every respect! Will most definitely be recommending that friends attend.
    (Am new to your blog, but enjoying your posts! Wish I’d known we were allowed to hang around and say hi…)

  • @Pat. Thank you sooo much!! Wish we’d had a chance to connect afterwards. Def tell some friends. And come back with them – we can say hi then!

    Which brings me to…


    Are you like me? Do you have even moderate social anxieties? Does working out the tab at a restaurant with acquaintances sometimes make you have to fake a trip to the bathroom? Does the whole “how do I deal with what happens after the show, once we’ve all shared a story, and I’d like to say ‘hi,’ but we don’t really ‘know’ each other” thing sometimes make you feel uncomfortable?

    Rest assured, you are not alone. I am the same. We stage types have learned to fake it, to varying degrees of success, because we have to do it all the time – whether it’s at a show we’re in, or at a show we’ve gone to see. But still, for the most part, we really aren’t any good at it.

    If you’re someone who has read this blog (for which I am beyond thankful), and has read any of these comments (for which I am whatever is beyond “beyond thankful”), I would say this:

    I get an email anytime someone comments here. If you’re reading, are coming to the show, and would like to say ‘hey’ afterwards, leave a comment. I will get it, I will respond, and we will meet up, guaranteed.

    The only thing I can’t guarantee is that I will be even remotely interesting when we do meet.

    Pat, thanks again for the comment, and thanks even more for coming to the theater.

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