Sense and Sensibility (Folger Shakespeare Library)

Our daughter and I attended the Folger Shakespeare Library production of “Sense and Sensibility” last night. (Jim is, to put it in an understated way, not a devotee of Jane Austen, describing her works as nothing but “yakety yak”). Needless to say, he was not invited to come to the play.

Adaptations of Jane Austen’s works can generally be lumped into two categories: period melodramas that take every word written by this brilliant author as proclamations from the deity versus lighthearted comedies (a la the movie “Clueless”) that recognize the works for what they are—satiric commentary on societal foibles.

This production of “Sense and Sensibility” definitely falls into the latter category. The set is creatively imagined, with the furniture mounted on wheels so that the actors move quickly and ingeniously to new positions to mark a different setting. Several of the actors play dual roles, marked by the wearing or absence of glasses or a ruff (the highlight is the actor who plays Edward Ferrars also playing his drunken younger brother). And the aisles of the theatre are also considered fair game in this staging.

The production is lighthearted, well acted, and does not take itself too seriously. It is high energy rather than languorous, impetuous rather than deliberate. We loved it (despite all the yakety yakking).

“Sense and Sensibility” is playing at the Folger through October 30 (http://www.folger.edu/events/sense-and-sensibility).

Book review: The Millionaire and the Bard by Andrea Mays

The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger’s Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare’s First FolioThe Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger’s Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare’s First Folio by Andrea Mays
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Folger Shakespeare Library (located in Washington, DC) has the world’s largest collection of First Folios (the original compilation of Shakespeare’s plays). To explain how the largest collection of the world’s greatest English language author ended up in the United States, Andrea Mays sets out to explain how Henry and Emily Folger became interested in Shakespeare and his works. It’s a fascinating story of how Henry went from a student who went to college on scholarship to a wealthy and obsessive collector of all things Shakespeare.
The Folgers lived a frugal lifestyle, devoting every penny they could to their growing collection of Shakespeare First Folios and other Shakespeare-related items. Their wealth came from Henry Folger’s extremely successful career at Standard Oil. I thought the treatment of Standard Oil was very even-handed. The author is clearly well versed in economics and understands that Standard Oil’s ability to scale and take advantage of efficiencies resulting in low fuel prices for consumers. The fact that Rockefeller and Standard Oil were victims of a hatchet job skillfully performed by a journalist on a vendetta does not blind the author to the very real benefits gained by consumers thanks to Standard Oil (to the dismay of Standard Oil’s competitors).
Whatever your personal feelings about Standard Oil, there is no denying that Henry Folger’s professional success there enabled Henry and Emily Folger to assemble a stunning collection of First Folios and ultimately creating the Folger Shakespeare Library so that the collection could be shared and made accessible to the public. It was an extraordinary gesture of philanthropy and generosity. And the book gives an excellent portrayal of the two extraordinary people who made it possible.

View all my reviews

Folger Shakespeare Library London Board meeting

I am on the Board of Governors of the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Folger decided to have its June board meeting in London this year. The Board meeting itself was held at the British Library and quite productive. (Or, rather, getting to know the other Board members and the senior staff better was extremely productive. Hopefully, the staff, for whom this board meeting was orders of magnitude more work than normal board meetings, thought so, too.)

At any rate, we got to see not only the British Library, which had an exhibit not only on Shakespeare (duh!) but also had a punk exhibit, where there was the only document signed by all the Sex Pistols (kicking out one of the original band members and signing on Sid Vicious), but also two plays.

The first one was “Elegy,” which a board member who shall remain anonymous reacted to by saying he would rather cut off a finger than see it again. Someone labeled the play as a thought experiment, which I think is an accurate description. Note that I myself am not fond of thought experiments as plays.

The second play was “Romeo and Juliet” with Derek Jacobi as Mercutio and directed by Kenneth Branagh. It was a fabulous production—set in fascist Italy and superbly acted. As I get older, however, this play becomes less a romantic and tragic love story and more about the idiocy that results from an overabundance of testosterone. But I digress.

I stayed on an extra day and decided to spend it at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I emerged four and a half hours later. The museum is nominally about the decorative arts, but it really is so much more. It has everything from illuminated manuscripts to Leonardo daVinci’s notebooks (5 of them!) to ceramics from around the world to Islamic art to architectural models. Not surprisingly, the European exhibits are much stronger than the non-European exhibits, but everything is good.

V&A cast room

V&A cast room

V&A

V&A medieval room

Add onto that an obligatory trip to Harrod’s to check out the food stalls, and I would call this a very successful visit!

Folger Shakespeare gala April 2016

The Folger Shakespeare Library has the world’s largest collection of First Folios, the first publication of Shakespeare’s plays.  (They are stored in a huge vault, which is way cool to visit.)  It is an organization that provides scholarly resources for academic research, concerts and plays, and education curricula for K-12 teachers.  One of its missions—and the one that resonates most with us—is to make Shakespeare relevant to the 21st century.
The First Folios are currently on tour as we celebrate the Wonder of Will, otherwise known as the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s life.
I’m on the Board of Governors for the Folger, and the annual black-tie gala was held on April 18.  We raised over $400,000 for the Folger and its programs.  The kids came along and invited some of their friends as well.
I’m including some photos, including a fabulous shot by the Folger photographer of the Reading Room, which looks like it walked straight out of the 17th century (but with plumbing!)

Jim with actor Wendell Pierce

Jim with actor Wendell Pierce

with Denise Levy

with Denise Levy

the gang of 11th graders

the gang of 11th graders

the gang of 8th graders

the gang of 8th graders

the Folger reading room

the Folger reading room

You can find out more about the Folger at www.folger.edu, and you can find out where you can go see a First Folio on tour at http://www.folger.edu/first-folio-tour.