The Winter's Tale

Folger Shakespeare Library and Folger Theatre
November 4 - December 17
Folger Theatre

With the magic and fantastical elements of a fairy tale, Shakespeare’s astonishing romance is filled with emotional depth, extreme behavior, complex relationships—and a bear in pursuit. The Winter’s Tale, with its rich tapestry of love, strife, hope, and human folly, celebrates the power of forgiveness, redemption, and second chances.

Stage Director Talk November 8, 6:30pm

Inside the Season: The Winter’s Tale Wednesday, November 29, 6:30pm

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About the Show

Beginning October 24, 2023



Folger Theatre

201 E Capitol St SE

Washington, DC 20003

About the Play

Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale is a story filled with unthinkable tragedy, loss, and betrayal, and yet, it also carries unexpected joy through an incredible journey that leads us from the unforgivable to the improbable, to transformational redemption.

It is a story that seems to mimic our country’s (our world’s) own inconceivable and metaphorical winter of deadly pandemic, social and racial reckoning, and political turmoil in recent years. How do we find our way to the other side? Shakespeare always seems to be an unthreatening place for us to project ourselves and process our own lives.

The Winter’s Tale is considered a romance, encapsulating the full spectrum of tragedy, comedy, loss, and love. It also includes one of Shakespeare’s most iconic stage directions: “He exits, pursued by a bear.” When King Leontes works himself into a jealous rage (seemingly for no reason) that redirects the course of many people’s lives, it is no laughing matter. Yet, the journey to the other side brings us the hallmarks of a Shakespearean comedy: young love, unexpected hijinks, hard-won reunion, a pathway to forgiveness and a physical, emotional and spiritual reawakening.

As the Folger prepares to greet the world for the second time, this story about second chances and transformation resonates with the physical and spiritual evolution of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Helmed by director Tamilla Woodard (Baltimore Center Stage’s world premiere of Donetta Lavinia Gray’s Where We Stand), The Winter’s Tale will be performed inside the Folger’s historic theater and will launch the inaugural season of Folger Theatre’s new artistic director, Karen Ann Daniels. Woodard has directed at theaters nationally and internationally, including at WP Theater, The Alliance, Baltimore Center Stage, American Conservatory Theater, Classical Theater of Harlem, The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts with TheaterWorksUSA, and The Cleveland Public Theatre, among others. Named one of 50 Women to Watch on Broadway, she is the Chair of the Acting program at David Geffen School of Drama and a Resident Director at Yale Rep. She is the co-founder of the site-specific international partnership, PopUP Theatrics and was the Associate Director of the Tony Award-winning Hadestown on Broadway in its premiere season.

By Karen Ann Daniels, Director of Programming and Artistic Director, Folger Theatre and Michelle Marie Lynch, Artistic Associate, Programming and Performance, Folger Shakespeare Library

A Letter From
The Folger Director

Shakespeare is “everywhere” this fall in Washington, and I’m pleased that the Folger can participate in this city-wide celebration of the actor from Stratford who went on to startling success as a playwright and poet. The fact that Shakespeare’s stories have been repeated and adapted over the last four centuries is evidence enough of his staying power. But that longevity is connected to the fact that each generation has remade “their” Shakespeare according to their own longings and anxieties. During the Cold War, Shakespeare became a kind of existential hero – someone who was working out how to be a human being in a culture of conformity. Fast forward to today where Shakespeare is a medium for working out our anxieties about race, identity, and belonging in the age of social media.

Shakespeare is also everywhere at the Folger Shakespeare Library, which is finishing a major renovation that has transformed our ability to bring together our rare collections with performances of his plays and scholarship about his times. We are delighted that this rebirth of a Washington cultural institution will follow a city-wide celebration of the author who is our middle name. We look forward to exploring the legacy and future of Shakespeare in our exhibitions, our work with educators and families, and in the interpretations we continue to explore through Folger Theatre. Poetically perhaps, we have chosen The Winter’s Tale for our inaugural production of our re-opening season. There is no better Shakespeare play for thinking about the transformative power of art, the reconciliation of past with present, and the power of human longing to bring to life what we have long loved. 

As Director of the Folger, I am keenly aware of the fact that this festival – and the Folger’s reopening – are more than a statement about the importance of Shakespeare. They are also an opportunity to restate the value of a writer whose stories and words beckon to artists who want to perform and interpret them. There is great strength in the diversity of persons and approaches that I associate with Shakespeare in the 21st century. I am particularly proud of the fact that Washington – all of Washington – has the opportunity this fall to define its own Shakespeare, whether that is in theater, ballet, opera, songwriting, poetry, or art. A multiplicity of audiences demands a multiplicity of approaches and art forms and this series, which has been generously supported by Washington institutions and philanthropists, is a testament to our commitment to “make new” what is old. That is the rhythm of life as one season gives way to the next.

Please take the opportunity to enjoy the multiple Shakespeare’s that are on offer around Washington. And please take the opportunity to re-introduce yourself to Shakespeare and the Folger when you visit our newly renovated gardens, exhibition halls, café, and other amenities in our historic building on Capitol Hill. We welcome you as we explore anew the legacy of this remarkable writer and artist. 

—Michael Witmore, Director, Folger Shakespeare Library