Folger Theatre To Expands Reading Room Festival With Slate Of Engaging Programming

The festival offers a premier platform for playwrights inspired by, in response to, or in conversation with the plays of William Shakespeare.

By: Dec. 07, 2023
Folger Theatre To Expands Reading Room Festival With Slate Of Engaging Programming
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Folger Theatre To Expands Reading Room Festival With Slate Of Engaging Programming

Folger Shakespeare Library has announced Folger Theatre's eagerly-awaited second iteration of The Reading Room Festival.

The festival offers a premier platform for playwrights inspired by, in response to, or in conversation with the plays of William Shakespeare. Staged readings of plays at this year's festival will be complemented by an array of activities that invite all attendees to immerse themselves in the creation, evolution, and interpretation of new work. The Reading Room Festival will be held at Folger Theatre, January 25-28, 2024.

New plays by playwrights Austin Dean Ashford, Sarah B. Mantell, Jacob Ming-Trent (Bottom in Folger Theatre's 2022 A Midsummer Night's Dream), and Carmen Palaez headline the festival. They highlight the Folger's commitment to fostering innovation and creativity, advancing the understanding and appreciation of Shakespeare's works by using them as a starting point for new expression by diverse voices and fresh perspectives. 

“The Reading Room Festival is a unique opportunity to experience how Shakespeare can open up the creative process for us all,” says Folger Director of Programming and Folger Theatre Artistic Director Karen Ann Daniels. “The Shakespearean legacy is manifested in how he inspires wholly new stories and new art in addition to the restaging and reinterpretation of his work. As with last year, we are centering on a variety of artistic voices creating from Shakespeare, but for our second festival, we are expanding opportunities for deep conversation, participatory learning, and experimentation with new media that will interest scholars, artists, and our local community.”

An open rehearsal of Six Othellos with Dr. John “Ray” Proctor is one such avenue for expanding conversation around the creative process in a way that will engage critics, scholars, and general audiences. 

“The festival is a place where art and scholarship around classical works combine to reveal something entirely new,” explains Folger Institute Director Patricia Akhimie. “The works and conversations that unfold at the festival involve audiences in the most active way. These experiments with a variety of techniques and approaches—adaptation, translation, reappropriation, reimagining—depend upon the presence and participation of everyone in the room.”

Key highlights of The Reading Room Festival 2024 include:

  • A diverse selection of four plays, celebrating the richness of theatrical storytelling

  • Engaging conversations with artists, critics, and scholars, allowing audiences to gain a deeper understanding of the creative process and the stories behind the stories

  • Exclusive access to readings of world premiere plays to be performed in the future, with a behind-the-scenes experience allowing attendees the opportunity to watch an open rehearsal and discover new and exciting voices. 

  • Expanded offerings to include open rehearsals, screenings, and live music in the Folger's Great Hall following each night's presentations

  • Networking opportunities, allowing attendees the chance to connect with fellow industry professionals, share insights, and forge valuable relationships.

New Plays of The Reading Room Festival: 


Rap Monologues 

by Austin Dean Ashford
Thursday, January 25, 5pm

A dazzling one-person show that follows the journey of a storage unit trainer at Safe Guys whose passion for hip-hop verses transforms classical texts into electrifying monologues. This tour de force performance fuses hip hop history, humor, and a fresh perspective on the classics. Rap Monologues offers an unforgettable experience that will leave you laughing, grooving, and reimagining the boundaries of art. 

The Cuban Vote


by Carmen Pelaez
Friday, January 26, 8pm

Miami is the third rail of national politics. Confounding experts every election cycle, its electorate sets the tone for what's to come for the rest of the country. Inspired by Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, The Cuban Vote revisits this story through an unlikely romantic lead who embodies our vote while being honest about our hubris, surreal political tendencies and our success as a city, even if it's in spite of ourselves.

Everything That Never Happened 


By Sarah B. Mantell
Saturday, January 27, 2pm

Jessica and Lorenzo are in love, but in order to be together they must plan an escape from her father's house, the Venetian ghetto, and her entire culture. Taking place in the gaps between Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice and the realities of Jewish history, Everything that Never Happened is a play about a father, a daughter, disguise, assimilation, pomegranates, and everything Shakespeare left out.

How Shakespeare Saved My Life 

Written and Performed by Jacob Ming-Trent
Saturday, January 27, 8pm

How Shakespeare Saved My Life is an epic poem written and performed by Jacob Ming-Trent through verse, rhyme, and song. In this cabaret-styled show, Jacob shares how Shakespeare raised him, saved him, and ultimately showed him that forgiveness and mercy could set him free. "America tried to take my life, and somehow a five-hundred-year-old white dude saved it.”

Ticket Information:

The Reading Room Festival takes place at Folger Theatre (201 E Capitol Street, SE).

Festival Pass (includes all readings & conversations): $35. 

All-Access Pass (all readings, conversations, plus special events): $75

Students: admitted free one-half hour before readings, with a valid ID (for readings and conversations only)

Tickets available for purchase from the Folger Box Office: or
(202) 544-7077.

Check the Folger website at for complete schedule, related programming, and additional information.


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