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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Theatre and Dance

UofSC Chosen as Host Location for National Tour of Shakespeare First Folio

A rare copy of Shakespeare's First Folio will be on display at the University of SC in 2016.

The University of South Carolina will be temporary home to a rare copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio in 2016, a year which marks the 400th anniversary of the influential playwright's death.  The University was chosen along with partner in programming Richland Library to be the only South Carolina stop in a national tour of the Folio, being organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library, in collaboration with the Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association.  The Folio is expected to be on display at the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library.

Located in Washington, DC, The Folger houses 82 of the known 233 copies of the First Folio, the world’s largest collection.  Printed in 1623 (just seven years after Shakespeare’s death), the First Folio was the first printed compilation of the Bard’s now-classic plays.  Eighteen of the 36 plays contained in the folio, including The Comedy of Errors, As You Like It and The Winter’s Tale, saw their first publications in the First Folio.

Robert Richmond

“These are works that have changed our language, our philosophies and our collective humanity,” says UofSC Theatre Associate Professor Robert Richmond.  “The plays that are contained in this First Folio are in many ways as significant as the Magna Carta or the Declaration of Independence.”

Recently named to the honorary position of Associate Artist of the Folger Theatre, Richmond has directed several critically-acclaimed productions for the esteemed organization.  His recent string of directorial successes there includes Julius Caesar (2014), Richard III (2014), Twelfth Night (2013), and Henry V (2013), which became the best-selling play in the theatre’s history.  His 2010 production of Henry VIII was nominated for a record ten Helen Hayes Awards.  He's also directed several audio recordings of Shakespeare plays, which the theatre is offering online and at retail through Simon and Schuster.

Richmond’s connection to The Folger extends to the First Folio tour, as well.

“I have been commissioned by The Folger to adapt a Shakespearean work to accompany the Folio on its national tour,” he says.  “It will be the story of Hamlet, using Shakespeare’s text, but told in an interactive way from the Gravedigger’s perspective.” 

For the last few months, Richmond has worked with a committee of faculty and staff from the English Department and University Libraries to pre-plan and apply for the chance to be on the folio's national tour.  University President Harris Pastides and First Lady Patricia Pastides expressed their interest in making the UofSC a part of the national tour when they saw one of the folios in person after a performance of Julius Caesar at The Folger, which they attended in the Fall of 2014.

“Seeing it there live, so close you can almost touch it, allows us to understand it was revolutionary,” says Richmond.  “It’s incredible to look at these words and realize this has really changed the way we think and philosophize. It’s less about the plays and more about the humanity that’s inside of those covers.”

Richmond will direct The Tempest for Theatre SC in April, 2016 and says he has high hopes that the University’s place on the tour schedule, which is still unannounced, will coincide with the timing of that production.

Stay tuned for more detailed info about this incredible opportunity in the months to come!

Read more about the original publication of Shakespeare's works at the Folger Library website.