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Original Shakespeare folio to stop in Santa Fe

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The First Folio will be opened to the pages of “Hamlet” in which the young Dane ponders “To be, or not to be …” (Courtesy Of Folger Shakespeare Library)

SANTA FE – Tell children that an object before them was used by people many centuries in the past, and their excitement and reverence is palpable, according to Mary Kershaw, director of the New Mexico Museum of Art.

Tell them it’s a copy, and that feeling evaporates.

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“Henry VIII” by Will Karp is one of the creations from the Santa Fe Book Arts Group that will be displayed in the exhibition “The Book’s The Thing” at the Palace of the Governors. (Courtesy Of New Mexico Museum)

So when a publication of the “First Folio,” the first complete collected edition of William Shakespeare’s works, visits the museum Feb. 5-28, Kershaw anticipates witnessing that same kind of excitement.

“The direct physical connection (with the past) is what’s so special,” she said. “It’s hard to describe the excitement until you come face to face with the object.”

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SHAKESPEARE: Inspiration for events (Courtesy Of Folger Shakespeare Library)

While the book wasn’t a direct part of Shakespeare’s life – the editions, 233 of which are known to exist today, were published in 1623, seven years after his death – the 36 plays contained within were compiled by two fellow actors who performed the works as he wrote them. They were owned and read by people centuries ago.

The Folger Shakespeare Library owns 82 of those books, and it decided to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death by taking one on tour this year to give people the chance to take a look at it.

People visiting the Santa Fe exhibition will see the book (a couple of Folios were sold for $5.2 million and $6.2 million in this century) opened to Hamlet’s famous soliloquy “To be, or not to be …”

The Santa Fe exhibit – it’s the First Folio’s only stop in the state on this tour – will bring with it a veritable Season of Shakespeare, with a host of workshops, performances and more inspired by the First Folio’s visit cropping up around it. As a matter of fact, the enthusiastic level of community involvement – “the breadth of the programming and the diversity” – was part of what impressed the Folger officials with Santa Fe’s application to be on the tour, Kershaw said.

Santa Fe Performing Arts has already performed excerpts from Shakespeare’s plays, “Shake Hands with Shakespeare,” at five schools in the area – the Academy for Technology and the Classics, the Academy at Larragoite and Carlos Gilbert Elementary in Santa Fe; Tesuque Elementary; and Vista Grande High School in Taos – to familiarize students with the Bard of Avon, she said.

The Renesan Institute for Lifelong Learning has scheduled a number of Shakespeare-related classes, and the International Shakespeare Center is bringing people from the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art for some workshops.

By mid-December, Kershaw counted some 34 events in February associated with Shakespeare and the First Folio listed on the Museum of Art’s website – and more will likely be added. And that’s with only 29 days in February.

Kershaw said experience has shown her that many locals don’t come to the museum in summer, deterred by the influx of tourists. But quality exhibitions in the winter months have attracted many area residents.

“What I find is that there’s an interesting cycle in Santa Fe,” she said. “February is always risky because of the weather. But, by February, people have cabin fever and are ready for a reason to get out again.”

Other exhibitions planned in conjunction with the First Folio coming to Santa Fe include:

⋄  “The Book’s the Thing: Shakespeare from Stage to Page,” Feb. 5-28 at the Palace of the Governors. Tom Leech and James Bourland have put together an exhibition at the Palace Press to offer additional insights into the printing side of the Folio and Shakespeare’s works.

⋄  “Ever the Twain: Shakespeare in Mark Twain’s America.” Santa Feans Lois Rudnick and Jonathan Richards wrote this imagined meeting of two of the most nimble wits in history. Besides Richards, readers of the script include the Lensic’s general manager, Robert Martin, and author Valerie Plame. This will take place 7 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Lensic Performing Arts Center.

⋄  The Lensic will also host “Geoff Hoyle: Lear’s Shadow” at 7 p.m. Feb. 27. Actor and playwright Hoyle portrays the Jester, a character who was often at King Lear’s side through Shakespeare’s play, commenting on the proceedings, often the only one to tell the truth to power. In this work, the Jester tells his side of the tale.

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