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King Henry (Zach Appelman, top) leads his men into battle in Henry V. Photo by Scott Suchman.

King Henry (Zach Appelman, top) leads his men into battle in Henry V. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Hello again from your pal Louis Butelli! Last week, we closed Folger Theatre’s Henry V. It was a great run: some stellar crowds, some excellent press, and some (hopefully) entertaining blog posts both from me and from the fabulous Katie DeBuys.

If you came by to see us, you’ll also remember Richard Sheridan Willis as the Chorus and Chris Genebach as Exeter. Richard, Chris, and I are just about three weeks from going back into rehearsal for Folger’s upcoming Twelfth Night. Directed by Robert Richmond, Twelfth Night will feature an ensemble of actors from Washington and New York, a lush scenic design from Tony Cisek, and a live band on stage. Come and see it! Tickets are on sale here.

Meanwhile, the Production Diary will be up and running during our break. In preparation for Twelfth Night, I’m going to attempt a little experiment here.

The Reading Room at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

The Reading Room at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

As you may be aware, the Folger Shakespeare Library is home to one of the world’s most stunning and extensive collections of works related to the early modern era in the West, and to William Shakespeare and the theater. (For a more thorough description, click here.) Once per week, for the next three weeks, I’m going to track down an item from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s collection, and explore the item’s relationship to the Folger Theatre’s next production, Twelfth Night.

I’ll head to the Reader’s Room, just like one of the many incredible scholars who use the collection daily, and get down and dirty with some of the Library’s treasures. PLEASE NOTE: I am using “down and dirty” metaphorically. I have already been made aware of the protocol for handling the collection’s rare materials, which you can peruse here and here.

Folger Library Digital Image Collection.

Folger Library Digital Image Collection.

For this experiment, I’ll be interested in how each piece relates to the play as a work of historical literature, how the collection itself can interact with our production, and how an actor might use the collection to put together a role. At least one of the pieces will be a book and/or document, but I’m also hoping to take a look at some paintings, listen to some music, and watch some film.

If you’d like to play along at home, I should just mention here that the Library already has vast online resources that anybody with a computer can access. For starters, take a look at:

LUNA, the Folger Shakespeare Library’s online digital image collection; and,

HAMNET, a highly interactive, bibliographic reference for the entire collection.

Overwhelmed? Me too! I suddenly thought that it might be useful to enlist the services of a Library Sherpa.

May I please introduce you to Mr. Alan Katz….

Alan works at the Folger Shakespeare Library as a Circulation Assistant, and has kindly agreed to hold my hand as I attempt to navigate the collection. With a peripatetic upbringing, moving 13 times in 12 years, Alan received his undergraduate degree in Theater History from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, before coming to Washington, DC to earn his graduate degree – also in Theater History – from Catholic University of America. He’s worked as a dramaturg for Folger Theatre on Orestes, WSC Avant Bard on The Bacchae, Inkwell Theatre on Cygnus, among others. In his spare time, Alan translates from Greek, Latin, and Anglo-Saxon, and writes for Folger Magazine.

I can’t imagine a more highly qualified guide and, having met up for Vietnamese sandwiches to discuss the notion, a kinder, friendlier, or smarter guy with whom to team up.

So, I sincerely hope that you will return to this space for a few minutes, and follow along as Alan and I indulge in some literary spelunking. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts about what sorts of documents you’d like to read about, please do comment below, and we’ll see what we can find.

Thanks for reading. Until next time!