Book that brought us Shakespeare coming to a library near you

A pop-up performance surprises library patrons in University City, as Shakespeare takes center stage in San Diego.

It’s all to celebrate a book described as one of the most important pieces of literature. The 1623 First Folio was published just seven years after Shakespeare’s death, which was 400 years ago, and contains 36 of Shakespeare’s plays. More importantly, 18 of the plays had never been printed before, including the works “Macbeth,” “The Tempest” and “Comedy of Errors.”

“Without the First Folio, we wouldn’t know Shakespeare’s words,” said Kara West, Library Arts & Culture Exhibition Manager. “The First Folio is really what makes these accessible to us.”

San Diego will be the only stop in California for a first-ever national tour of this treasured text. From community events to performances on the outdoor stage at The Old Globe, events are planned throughout the summer to showcase why San Diego is the perfect venue for this prized piece of literature. On loan from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., the First Folio will be displayed for five weeks starting June 4 inside the art gallery on the ninth floor of the Central Library @ Joan Λ Irwin Jacobs Common.

“One of the things we were really able to provide at the public library was the gallery, our state-of-the-art gallery, a way we could meet all of the requirements of the exhibition while still making it free and open to the public,” said West.

First Folio will be available for viewing and opened to the page with the famous phrase “To be or not to be” from “Hamlet”. Accompanying the rare book will be a multi-panel exhibition exploring the significance of Shakespeare, then and now, as well as the importance of the First Folio. A supplemental exhibition will showcase original props, costumes, photographs and ephemera from The Old Globe’s 80-year archive, with a focus on the productions of Shakespeare that have made the Globe one of the most important Shakespeare theatres in North America.

Tourists from across Southern California are expected to visit San Diego for a glimpse at the book and to experience the Bard.

“One of the reasons why he’s so timeless is that he wasn’t afraid to stare humanity in the face,” said West. “His characters are real, they’re flawed, they do good and bad just like we do today.”

For a complete line-up of events and free tickets for the exhibition, visit the First Folio San Diego website.

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