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Folger Shakespeare Library Announces a Diverse Line-Up of Free Summer Programming and Events

On Folger Fridays, the Folger offers free evening events from 5:30–7:30pm with local artists and performers on the front lawn of the Folger plinth.

By: Jun. 27, 2024
Folger Shakespeare Library Announces a Diverse Line-Up of Free Summer Programming and Events  Image
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The Folger Shakespeare Library has announced its slate of free summer programming for the months of July and August, 2024.

From a Cuban salsa night to Arab poetry and music, from an inclusive, neurodivergent-friendly dance class for families to the return of the Folger Book Fair, there is an enticing event for everyone. After a four-year renovation, the Folger has added a new 12,000 square-foot pavilion with two new exhibition halls featuring rare items from the Folger's extensive collections, lush new garden spaces, and reoriented the Great Hall as a gathering space in anticipation of the forthcoming café Quill & Crumb. This slate of summer programming welcomes both old friends and new visitors to enjoy all the Folger has to offer. 

“This summer, we're hosting some community-centered events for both families and business professionals with Folger Family Takeovers and Folger Fridays,” shares Katherine Harroff, Director of Engagement at the Folger. “We see these events as an opportunity to reintroduce ourselves to past Folger audiences and pave the way for new audiences by presenting and celebrating a diverse collection of local artists. We'll be exploring a large variety of offerings such as music and dance and workshops that will ensure there is something for everyone at the Folger this summer. We can't wait to see you there!”

On Folger Fridays, the Folger offers free evening events from 5:30–7:30pm with local artists and performers on the front lawn of the Folger plinth. After the event, guests are invited to visit the Folger's exhibition halls and other public spaces in the building, which are open until 9pm on Fridays. Timed-entry passes are recommended. In case of rain or extreme heat, events will move indoors to the Theatre.

Grammy-nominated musician, hip-hop emcee, and spoken word artist Kokayi kicks off Folger Fridays on July 12. Kokayi, the first emcee to be granted a Guggenheim fellowship for music composition, will perform hip hop and poetry with fellow musicians.

On July 26, Cuban dance company DC Casineros will demonstrate various Cuban popular and social dance styles and offer free dance lessons. That same evening, Grammy Award-winning salsa, big band, and swing bandleader Gerardo Contino will perform with his band, Gerardo Contino y Los Habaneros. 

Be Steadwell, a queer pop singer-songwriter and filmmaker, and Pretty Boi Drag, an award-winning collective of BIPOC drag kings, will host the festivities for an evening of queer celebration on August 9. 

Folger Fridays concludes its seasonal line-up on August 23, with Arab American composer, vocalist, and oud player Laith Alattar and Band performing Arab poetry and music. 

During Folger Fridays, the Folger Shakespeare Library's newly renovated and reopened exhibition halls are open to the public. The Shakespeare Exhibition Hall features the largest collection of Shakespeare's First Folios (82 in all) in one space, exhibitions with rare materials related to how artists and readers have responded to Shakespeare's works throughout time. The Stuart and Mimi Rose Rare Book and Manuscript Exhibition Hall hosts the stunning special exhibition Imprints in Time. Guests are invited to bring a picnic to enjoy on the Folger's front lawn on the plinth and explore the Folger's new gardens; beverages will be available for purchase.

Every other Saturday morning from 9–11am is all about family fun, and the Folger is opening early specifically for families with consideration for their busy summer schedules. This summer, Folger Family Takeovers include hands-on activities, dance, poetry, and lots of energy in the Great Hall and Theatre. On July 6, ZamDance will lead a dance fitness program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their caretakers, family, and friends that is inclusive for all abilities in the Great Hall. The team from Callaloo Kids will put on a fun puppet performance about diversity and social awareness on July 20. The Folger hosts a morning of crafts, poetry, and music on August 3. One of the top five most produced artists for Theatre for Young Audiences, Paige Hernandez, will perform from her original work and lead a Havana pop dance workshop on August 17. 

Folger Family Takeovers occur before the Folger's regular opening hours; please check in at the Welcome Desk. After the program, please stay and enjoy the Folger's exhibition halls. Timed-entry passes are recommended. 

On August 24, the Folger invites families to become part of a living sonnet through two special workshops geared for poets aged 5–7 (at 11:30am) and 8–14 (at 1pm). Together, families will learn about rhyme, rhythm, and imagery through movement and performance. Free registration opens in July.

After last summer's popular event at East City Bookshop, the Folger Book Fair is back in session on Saturday, July 14, 11am–3pm in the Folger's West Lobby and new Folger Shop. The Folger Book Fair will highlight programs from the Folger's upcoming season. A curated book selection inspired by Folger Theatre, Poetry, and Book Club programs will be available for browsing and purchasing. Local independent bookstores—including East City Bookshop, People's Book, Old Town Books, and Solid State Books—will be sharing promotional materials. Folger Poetry Manager Teri Cross Davis will read poems throughout the afternoon from our upcoming poetry season and Folger staff will be on hand to answer questions about upcoming events. There will be activities for younger readers including story time from Ello, a children's reading app for kindergarten to 3rd grade readers. There will also be literary giveaways throughout the day.

Folger Book Club returns to its virtual programming on August 1, at 6:30pm (ET), to discuss Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton. A “Best Book of the Year” selection of The New York Times Book Review, NPR, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Time, Financial Times, Slate, The Chicago Public Library, Kirkus, The Telegraph, and more, Birnam Wood is a gripping psychological thriller, inspired by the themes of Shakespeare's Macbeth set in New Zealand's South Island. The evening will start with a brief presentation from Todd Andrew Borlick, who was featured in the Shakespeare Unlimited episode, “Shakespeare and the Environment.” Sessions take place over Zoom. Free registration is required and will open on July 9, with early access for Folger Members. Politics and Prose is the local independent bookstore partner for this virtual Book Club selection. The calendar for Folger Book Club's fall season is available here:

Though not a free event, the Folger's popular Mixology series of trivia and early modern drink recipes is finally returning home to the Folger this summer. Shakespeare for Swifties, on August 15 from 6–9pm, in the Great Hall brings together the Bard and Taylor Swift for an evening of fun. Participants can make friendship bracelets while enjoying Swift-inspired cocktails and her greatest hits, or create a trivia team of up to six players to win prizes. All participants can play solo, make new friends, or come as a team. Registration opens on July 25 for $25 per guest. 

For the full roster of summer programming, please visit: 


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