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Shakespeare at 400: From Fiction to Fact

Shakespeare at 400: From Fiction to Fact is an ASU celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s First Folio, the first published collection of 36 of Shakespeare’s plays. The celebration is led by staff and scholars in the Department of English’s literature program and is informed by the university’s enormous strength in Early Modern studies. The fall 2023 celebration includes events centering on the creation of the folio: a performance (Oct. 18); a documentary screening (Nov. 8); and a curated book display at ASU Library (Oct. 2-31).

These events are free of charge and open to the public.

Scenes from and Discussion of 'The Book of Will' by Lauren Gunderson

Image of actors in a tiny Globe theatre from a miniature book at UVA. Photo credit Shane Lin, Courtesy of Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. Used under CC 2.0.

Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023   |   5:30-7:30 p.m. 
Carson Ballroom, Old Main, 400 E. Tyler Mall, Tempe, AZ 85281 (ASU Tempe campus) 

Historian Helen Cam has said: "Historical fiction is not only a respectable literary form; it is a standing reminder of the fact that history is about human beings."

In the case of "The Book of Will" by Lauren Gunderson, historical fiction illuminates historical fact. Discover how history was made with the publishing of Shakespeare's Complete Works. Arizona State University presents scenes from "The Book of Will" by Lauren Gunderson, a modern, comedic look at how the Bard’s plays became the First Folio. The performance by ASU and community actors will be followed by a Q&A with actors, director, and a Shakespeare scholar.

Free and open to the public; the event will be livestreamed. No registration is necessary. Parking is available for a fee ($12 for 3 hours) at the Fulton Center Garage, 300 E. University Dr., Tempe.

Members of the ASU cast of The Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson. Photo courtesy Mary Beth Hollmann

View the program

About ‘The Book of Will’

Without William Shakespeare, we wouldn’t have literary masterpieces like “Romeo and Juliet.” But without Henry Condell and John Heminges, we would have lost half of Shakespeare’s plays forever! After the death of their friend and mentor, the two actors are determined to compile the First Folio and preserve the words that shaped their lives. They’ll just have to borrow, beg, and band together to get it done. Amidst the noise and color of Elizabethan London, "The Book of Will" finds an unforgettable true story of love, loss, and laughter, and sheds new light on a man you may think you know.

About the participants [Cast list here]
  • Melissa Rain Anderson (lead facilitator) is a New York-based director, actor and acting coach who directed the recent Phoenix Theatre production of "The Book of Will."
  • Lee Bebout (introduction) is professor of English at ASU, where he directs the program in literature.
  • Amie Bjorklund (Henry Condell/panelist) is a teaching artist and faculty associate at ASU, GCU, and Maricopa Colleges, where she teaches acting, voice, movement, dramaturgical studies and film and theatre history. She is also an ASU alum, having earned her master’s degree in film and media studies in 2022.
  • Breona Conrad (John Heminges/panelist) is a multi-faceted theatre practitioner who has worked with many companies throughout Arizona including Stray Cat, BLK BOX PHX, Southwest Shakespeare, Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival, and more. She is also a teaching artist with East Valley Children's Theatre, among others.
  • Bradley Ryner (scholar) is an associate professor of English at ASU and the author of “Performing Economic Thought: English Drama and Mercantile Writing 1600-1642.”
  • Lauren Gunderson (video introduction) is a playwright and the author of “The Book of Will.”
  • Mary Beth Hollmann (host) is the literature program manager in the ASU Department of English and a bardolator.

The Department of English's presentation of scenes from "The Book of Will" by Lauren Gunderson is part of ASU Humanities Week.

'Making Shakespeare: The First Folio' documentary screening

Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023  |  6 p.m.
Arizona PBS
, 555 N. Central Ave. Phoenix, AZ 85004 (ASU Downtown campus)


Arizona State University presents a screening of excerpts from a brand new documentary: "Making Shakespeare: The First Folio." Shakespeare scholars Ayanna Thompson, Eric Rasmussen and Sir Jonathan Bate – all of whom appear as experts in the film – provide insights and information. ASU scholar Ruben Espinosa facilitates and provides additional insight.

Free and open to the public; the event will be livestreamed. Parking is available for a fee ($12 for 3 hours) at the University Center Garage, 92 E Polk St, Phoenix.

Shakespeare at 400: From Fiction to Fact Book Display

Image of "The Tragedy of Macbeth" as seen through colorful lights. Photo credit Matt Riches on Unsplash.

Monday, Oct. 2 - Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023  |  Hayden Library hours
Hayden Library Lobby, 300 E. Orange St., Tempe, AZ 85281 (ASU Tempe campus)

ASU Library has compiled its own collection of work by, about, or inspired by, William Shakespeare. Peruse playwright Gunderson’s celebrated play – fiction – along with other adaptations of Shakespeare’s work and pieces that illuminate their subject matter. Here: also, find the work of ASU scholars who have made careers out of reading, interpreting, reacting, adapting, dissecting, criticizing, discovering, decolonizing, celebrating, discarding, and/or embracing Shakespeare and his complicated literary legacy. The fact is, Shakespeare matters, and 2023 is a good time to celebrate and complicate – what we know about him.

Shakespeare at 400 sponsors and supporters

Events in celebration of Shakespeare’s First Folio at ASU are presented by the Department of English literature program and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU, with additional assistance from the ASU School of Music, Dance and Theatre; ASU Library, ASU Institute for Humanities Research; Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and from Desert Stages Theatre and Mesa Community College.

More information: Mary Beth Hollmann