Fun at the Folger, part 4: Speak the Speech

It's another looooong post today, folks, but that's because I just haven't been able to stop reliving my dream trip to the Folger Shakespeare Library. This is the last one, though, and wraps up the highlights of my Free Folger Friday talk on April 29. Thanks to everyone who came!

First, I had to show up early before the talk for a sound check.

You see... about a year ago I was daydreaming about being interviewed about my comic and thought "Oh gosh, if anyone ever asks me what my favorite speech from Shakespeare is, I'd better have a good answer." So I went out and memorized one of the most notorious monologues in the entire canon, the Salic Law speech from Henry V 1.2. I've always had a soft spot for this speech, despite its reputation as a horrible, rambling, brain-twister of a speech that is almost always cut down in performance. In case you're interested, here's one of my favorite renditions of the speech, courtesy of the great Tony Church:

Anyways, when Brandon, the Folger Theatre's sound guy, asked me to talk so he could adjust the levels of my mic, I seized the opportunity to finally deliver the Salic Law speech on stage and, more importantly, in front of a captive audience who couldn't run away. It was glorious.

The talk itself was a conversation between me at Kate Pitt, who works with the Folger's public programs unit and is an absolutely lovely human being. We chatted about how I got into Shakespeare (my dad's fault, mostly), how I started drawing stick figures (literally cannot draw anything else), and, most excitingly, the future of Good Tickle Brain.

Actually, I'm really excited about going full-time on Good Tickle Brain. There are SO many projects I want to work on, and now I can at least pretend that I'll have enough time to get to all of them. (If you're interested in supporting me, please visit the Good Tickle Brain Patreon page, which I've just launched. More on that later...)

Then it was time for Q&A with the audience! 

To be perfectly honest, I've only seen Timon of Athens once in my life. It was a brilliant production with some devastating performances, but much-younger-me totally failed to engage with the material, which crucially didn't involve people running around hitting each other with swords. I'd actually genuinely love to see Timon again and give it another chance, now that I am older and pretending to be wiser.

Anyways... if you're in the DC area you should totally go see the Folger's production of Timon of Athens next year because (a) it doesn't get performed very often and who knows when you'll have a chance to see it again, and (b) it's probably going to be awesome. 

After the Q&A, a large whiteboard was rolled out and I did some live-drawing. It wasn't my best work, artistically, because I've never drawn my stick figures that large before, but it got the point across. The point being "STICK FIGURES ARE NOT HARD TO DRAW". 

I then asked the audience to give me a secondary character from Shakespeare's plays, about whom I would then draw an impromptu three-panel play. Someone (sorry, I can't remember your name!) shouted out "Toby Belch", so I got to work. 

Here's the final comic, cleaned up from its whiteboard incarnation:

It may not be my best work, but it's the first time I've tried improv comic-ing, which was quite a lot of fun!

Anyways, a HUGE "thank you!" to everyone who showed up to my talk and to everyone who stopped by afterwards to chat and get things signed. You were such a great audience, so warm and welcoming, that I complete forgot to be a nervous wreck at the prospect of speaking for the first time in public about my comic. 

If you want to see photos of the event, check out this album on Facebook - all photos by Brittany Diliberto over at Bee Two Sweet Photography

Thanks (again) to the Folger for inviting me to come play in their wonderful playground, and thanks (again and always) to Kate Pitt for masterminding everything and geeking out with me about how awesome Emilia is. I can't wait to come back.

Fun at the Folger, part 3: Hidden Gems

Last week I gave you an introduction to the Folger Library and a sneak peek at what's inside the Folger vaults. Today we wrap up my tour of the vaults.

Besides the shiny King Lear quarto and the obligatory First Folio and the Queen Elizabeth Bible, my noble guides Abbie and Alan had selected a number of other items from the collection that they thought would be of interest to me. This included a transcription of Shakespeare long-lost and totally-not-forged play King Vortigernseveral comic book adaptations of Shakespeare, and...

Flipping through comic book adaptations of  Macbeth  and  Twelfth Night . I am part of a noble tradition.   (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

Flipping through comic book adaptations of Macbeth and Twelfth Night. I am part of a noble tradition.  (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

Shakespeare rubber ducky. This is how cool the Folger is: this ducky is   part of their collection .  It's  in the vaults . It has a  call number . It's  in the original packaging .

Shakespeare rubber ducky. This is how cool the Folger is: this ducky is part of their collectionIt's in the vaults. It has a call number. It's in the original packaging.

The Shakespeare ducky is probably as good a symbol as any for one of the things I loved most about the Folger Shakespeare Library. Yes, they have unparalleled collections and resources and knowledge and scholarship in the field of Shakespearean studies. They also appear to have a sense of humor, or, at the very least, an appreciation for the lighter side of Shakespeareana, and are happy to add an anime adaptation of Twelfth Night and a rubber ducky with questionable facial hair to the same collection that houses the most First Folios in the world. Pop culture Shakespeare is not shunned here - it is embraced, and that makes me so very happy.

Anyways... let's get back to the tour. After working our way through the table of wonders, Abbie and Alan led me back into the stacks, so I could see some volumes in their natural habitat. This, unsurprisingly, led to several more magical encounters.

My intrepid guides, posing with me and a Shakespeare rubber ducky.  (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

My intrepid guides, posing with me and a Shakespeare rubber ducky. (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

You see, there are 234 surviving copies of First Folios on this earth. Each one is unique and magical and sparkly ponies and all that. BUT there is only ONE surviving first quarto of Titus Andronicus in the whole world, and IT WAS JUST SITTING THERE ON THE SHELF IN FRONT OF ME. I kind of lost control.

All the quartos, just hanging out on a shelf together, like NO BIG DEAL. Surviving quartos are, by and large, even rarer than Folios - the disposable paperbacks of their day.

All the quartos, just hanging out on a shelf together, like NO BIG DEAL. Surviving quartos are, by and large, even rarer than Folios - the disposable paperbacks of their day.

In case you've ever wondered what I look like when I realize that I'm staring at the only first quarto of  Titus Andronicus  in existence... I look like this.  (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

In case you've ever wondered what I look like when I realize that I'm staring at the only first quarto of Titus Andronicus in existence... I look like this. (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

Of course, the Folger has a lot of stuff that is unique. I'm kicking myself now about not asking about the False Folio or some of Shakespeare's legal documents or other gems of the Folger collection, but there was a lot to process at the time and I was really busy bouncing up and down in excitement. Speaking of which...

Again, I must note that Abbie and Alan were, in fact, very supportive of me making "EEEEEEE" noises. 

Alan, just casually browsing the shelves of Folios. I know several of them are out on tour, but that's STILL A LOT OF FOLIOS.

Alan, just casually browsing the shelves of Folios. I know several of them are out on tour, but that's STILL A LOT OF FOLIOS.

Selfie with Folios. 

Selfie with Folios. 

That wraps up my tour of the Folger Shakespeare Library vaults! Many thanks, again and always, to Alan and Abbie for being such fantastic, enthusiastic, and good-humored guides. Thanks also to the other assorted Folger staff members that I met on my tour, who all made me feel incredibly welcome. And thanks especially to Kate Pitt, for arranging all the details of this fantastic day for me.

Possibly the only time I thought about the benefits of a selfie stick. Hard to fit all this education awesomeness into a single frame.

Possibly the only time I thought about the benefits of a selfie stick. Hard to fit all this education awesomeness into a single frame.

Also, I wasn't able to make a comic of this, because sitting around a table having an excellent discussion about Shakespeare education in schools is hard to turn into a comic, but extra-special thanks to the Folger Education Department for meeting up with me and giving me a lot of exciting things to think about. 

Tune in Thursday for a re-cap of my talk at the Folger Theatre!

Fun at the Folger, part 2: Into the Vault

Abbie Weinberg, the door to the vault, me, and Alan Katz.  (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

Abbie Weinberg, the door to the vault, me, and Alan Katz. (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

OK, so now that you all know what the Folger Shakespeare Library is, it's time to come with me on a very special tour... into the depths of the Folger's vault!

Yes, somehow the Folger had mistaken me for an actual important person and arranged a private tour of the otherwise inaccessible vault for me. My guides on this expedition were the wonderful Abbie Weinberg and Alan Katz. 

I was also accompanied by my own personal paparazza, Kate Pitt, who took this photo of me, Abbie, and Alan at the door of the vault. It looks exactly like you would expect and want a vault door to look. The vault itself, however...

I exaggerate, of course. As a former library employee, I was actually expecting slightly disheveled stacks with overcrowded shelves, and that's what I got. Which doesn't take away from the SHEER MAGIC of rounding the corner and seeing laid out on a table, waiting for you...

Once again I exaggerate. Alan and Abbie were, in fact, extremely tolerant and even encouraging of my high-pitched noises of over-excitement and general flailing.

The table of wonders that Abbie and Alan have selected for me to peruse. This is pure kid-in-a-candy-shop stuff here.  (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

The table of wonders that Abbie and Alan have selected for me to peruse. This is pure kid-in-a-candy-shop stuff here. (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

First quarto of King Lear, with extremely busy title page!

First quarto of King Lear, with extremely busy title page!

First Folio! Right in front of me! Not hiding behind a glass case! 

First Folio! Right in front of me! Not hiding behind a glass case! 

Close-up of the cover of the Bishops' Bible that was in Queen Elizabeth's private chapel, including her marks engraved on the clasps and other hardware.

Close-up of the cover of the Bishops' Bible that was in Queen Elizabeth's private chapel, including her marks engraved on the clasps and other hardware.

Abbie obligingly flipped through the Folio to my favorite scene, 1 Henry IV 2.4, origin of the "Peace, good tickle brain" line. And then THIS happened:

Yes. I booped a First Folio. 

You can actually turn the pages and everything, but I was far too nervous to do that, so I settled for a tiny boop in the margins of the Good Tickle Brain page. Also, before you ask, no you don't have to wear gloves when you handle a Folio. Apparently the lack of tactile sensation in your fingers when you wear gloves actually causes more damage to the pages than the oils in your skin.

So I have now made skin-to-page contact with a piece of paper that came off Jaggard's press in 1623. It was pretty amazing. 

Face to face with a First Folio.  (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

Face to face with a First Folio. (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

Looking for the "good tickle brain" page.  (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

Looking for the "good tickle brain" page. (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

FOUND IT!  (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

FOUND IT! (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

Tadaaaaa! (Actual boop not pictured, because once I booped the page I literally leapt backwards and started flailing my arms around.)

Tadaaaaa! (Actual boop not pictured, because once I booped the page I literally leapt backwards and started flailing my arms around.)

Tune in again next week as I wrap up my fantastic adventures at the Folger, including a few more unexpected gems in the vault and a summary of my Free Folger Friday talk!

Fun at the Folger, part 1: What IS the Folger?

OK, I have SO MUCH material to share with you about my visit to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C., but we'll just start with an overview of WHAT, exactly, the Folger Shakespeare Library is. 

Visiting the Folger Shakespeare Library is TOTALLY FREE, as the Folgers gifted it to the public. There is a gift shop, though, stocked with all sorts of awesome Shakespeare stuff, so you're not liable to escape unscathed. There are different Shakespeare exhibits rotating through the Great Hall, so there's always something new to see.

There are several books about the Folgers' collecting adventures, but the only one I've read so far is The Millionaire and the Bard, by Andrea Mays. I recommend it. 

Here are just a few of the VERY MANY photos I took at the Folger:

My first-ever glimpse of the Folger Library, waiting patiently for me to cross the street.

My first-ever glimpse of the Folger Library, waiting patiently for me to cross the street.

One of the nine reliefs decorating the front of the library. This one JUST HAPPENS to depict the "Good Tickle Brain" scene from  Henry IV, part 1.

One of the nine reliefs decorating the front of the library. This one JUST HAPPENS to depict the "Good Tickle Brain" scene from Henry IV, part 1.

Inside the Folger Reading Room, featuring a bust of Shakespeare modeled on the one in Holy Trinity Church, portraits of Emily and Henry Folger, and the niche where their ashes are interred.

Inside the Folger Reading Room, featuring a bust of Shakespeare modeled on the one in Holy Trinity Church, portraits of Emily and Henry Folger, and the niche where their ashes are interred.

Top-quality merchandise in the Folger gift shop...  *ahem*

Top-quality merchandise in the Folger gift shop... *ahem*

Standard-issue windowless room where they put all the catalogers.

Standard-issue windowless room where they put all the catalogers.

The stage of the Folger Theatre, designed as a replica of an Elizabethan playhouse.

The stage of the Folger Theatre, designed as a replica of an Elizabethan playhouse.

Tune in again on Thursday for a SUPER SECRET* trip into the famous vaults of the Folger!

(*may not actually be super secret)