Classics, familiar and not, at Folger

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Entertainment,Music,Barbara Mackay

The Folger Shakespeare Theatre season starts off with a show that will attract Shakespeare lovers from near and far: a production of "Hamlet" straight from London's famed Globe Theatre. Co-directed by Dominic Dromgoole, artistic director of the Globe, and Bill Buckhurst, this "Hamlet" is a sleek, clarified version of Shakespeare's famous tragedy, featuring only eight actors.

"This is a new partnership that we have with the Globe and we're very excited about it," said Beth Emelson, assistant artistic producer at the Folger. "The exhibition on London that we have now in the Great Hall inspired us to begin conversations with the Globe about their coming here.

"Michael Benz, the actor playing Hamlet, is British but he got his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University. So he's a little bit of a home-town boy." Benz also trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and has appeared at the Globe and Theatre Royal Haymarket. "Hamlet" plays until September 22.

The second production in the Folger season is "The Conference of the Birds." Originally an allegorical 12th century Persian poem that inspired a theatrical adaptation by Peter Brook and Jean-Claude Carriere, it is a blend of poetry, imaginative tall tale and religious parable, a work that has fascinated audiences for hundreds of years. It deals with our place in the universe, and Brook/Carriere's adaptation combines music, dance, psychology, humor and spirituality.

If you go
Folger Shakespeare Theatre
Where: The Folger Shakespeare Theatre, 201 E. Capitol St. SE
When: September 8 to June 9
Info: $25 to $75; 202-544-7077; folger.edu

"Aaron Posner is directing it,'" said Emelson. "He's including the original compositions of Tom Teasley and sets by Meghan Raham. Again, the production will be associated with the exhibition going on in our Great Hall, which is all about transformation in art and nature." "Conference of the Birds" runs from October 23 to November 25.

The Folger's third play is "Henry V," Shakespeare's most famous "war play," a work that considers warfare in many ways. While much of the play glorifies battle and praises the king for being willing to fight, there is also a lot in "Henry V" that is critical of man's reasons for going to war and much that reflects on the pain war inflicts on the innocent.

" 'Henry' plays from January 22 to March 3, and will be directed by Robert Richmond," said Emelson. "Zach Appelman, who played in 'Warhorse' on Broadway, will play Henry.

"Next is 'Twelfth Night.' It will also be directed by Richmond, and will be set in pre-World-War I England. For both these final shows, Richmond will be using members of the creative team that he used in his very successful 'Othello,' including set designer Tony Cisek and costume designer Mariah Hale." "Twelfth Night" runs April 30 to June 9.

For more information about the Folger season, visit folger.edu.

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