Shakespeare’s First Folio Displayed in Baum Gallery

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The First Folio is now on display at UCA’s Baum Gallery. The traveling exhibit, “First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare,” will be open to the public through July 12.

The First Folio, a compilation of 36 of Shakespeare’s plays, was published in 1623 by two of his colleagues, Executive Director of Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre Mary Ruth Marotte said. Out of the 750 copies published, only 233 survive today.

18 of the plays in the Folio – including Macbeth, Twelfth Night, The Tempest and Julius Caesar – remained unpublished until the First Folio’s printing, according to the Folger Shakespeare Library website.

In honor of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the Folger Shakespeare Library and the American Library Association are sending First Folios out to all 50 states.

It has been a two-year process to bring the First Folio to UCA. One and a half of those years were used in preparing the Baum Gallery for the exhibition. The process involved ensuring that the environmental conditions of the room remained at a constant level and preparing for the continuous surveillance inside the gallery.

“It’s a big deal,” Marotte said. “It’s like having the Declaration of Independence in your community.”

The exhibit presents a replica of the original First Folio so that visitors can view it without touching the 400-year-old relic. The exhibit also has clothing and props from Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre productions, along with posters from their 10 years of shows.

The First Folio is contained within a glass case in a dimly lit room. The room is guarded by at least one UCAPD officer, Baum Gallery director Barclay McConnell said.

The book is opened to the famous phrase from Hamlet, “To be, or not to be – that is the question.”

Nisi Sturgis, an actress for the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, teared up when she saw the folio. She said it was opened to her favorite passage in all of Shakespeare, which talked about the actors and how to treat the company of players.

“We’re here for such a short time and we’re trying to show people who [the characters]are. It always moves me,” she said.

The exhibit is open Tuesday-Saturday from 12:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. There will be a guided tour every day at 2 p.m.

There is a list of programs and events involving the First Folio on the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre website.

In addition to the Folio, the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre is celebrating its tenth year by performing four plays at UCA. A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed on the Lawn at UCA – across from the President’s house – starting June 10th. West Side Story, Romeo & Juliet and Twelfth Night will be performed at Reynolds Performance Hall starting June 17th, 24th and 30th consecutively. Twelfth Night will also travel to other locations around the state.

Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre is teaming up with the UCA Bookstore to sell Shakespeare merchandise, Assistant Manager of the UCA Bookstore Audra Russell said. The merchandise will be sold in the UCA Bookstore in the Student Center as well as at the productions.

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