Shakespeareana at the Kennedy Center: From the best First Folio to the worst kitsch, with pictorial appearances by Queen Elizabeth I and Mickey Rooney, and the information that a divorce suit was won in 1964 by a woman who proved that her husband stayed up all night declaiming Shakespeare. All on exhibit in the Theatre Lab at the Roof Terrace Level.
The objects in this merrily eclectic show are from the Folger Shakespeare Library, which does not have room to exhibit them all. "Shakespeare: The Globe and the World," designed by Stuart Silver (who did the Tutankhamen and Dresden shows), is making its last stop in a national tour that began in 1979. Coordinated with the exhibit is a nine-week free film festival of Shakespearean plays by BBC/Time Life Television at the American Film Institute Theater.
The Folger exhibit has two chief themes: the world of Shakespeare's time, as it may have influenced him, and the influence of Shakespeare in the modern world.
In addition to four of the Folger's 79 First Folios, among them the Vincent-Jaggard copy with original binding, uncut pages and an inscription from the printer, period items include Henry VIII's boyhood copy of Cicero, in which is written, "This boke if Myne, Prince Henry"; a guide to the proper prices to charge for bread, depending on the wheat involved; a swimming instruction book with illustrations of skinny-dippers doing various strokes; a book of songs with the alto part written upside down and the bass sideways, so that the singers could group around one copy; and Queen Elizabeth's list of the presents she got one New Year's and how much they were worth.
From the modern world are Shakespeare T-shirts and tea towels, an electronic flashboard with Shakespeare trivia, and a wall filled with common sayings that show nearly everyone quotes Shakespeare in ordinary speech, knowingly or not.
The history of Shakespearean productions begins with the Adams model of The Globe, surrounded by a fanciful life-sized panoramic mural in which Queen Elizabeth, Sir Walter Raleigh and other celebrities of the day are pictured as an inattentive audience.
Among a collection of international posters, photographs and other stage memorabilia of productions throughout the world and over the centuries are video screens showing excerpts from Shakespearean films. That is where Mickey Rooney comes in, as a very young Puck, in one of several versions of the scene in which Bottom turns into an ass, from A Midsummer Night's Dream. There are also comparative balcony scenes from Romeo and Juliet, several stabbings of Julius Caesar, and encounters between Macbeth and the ghost of Banquo, including a Japanese version.
THE GLOBE AND THE WORLD -- At the Theatre Lab in the Kennedy Center through September 7. Open Tuesday through Saturday 10 to 8, Sundays and Mondays 10 to 5.
SHAKESPEARE FILM FESTIVAL -- Saturdays at 2 beginning June 19 at the American Film Institute Theater in the Kennedy Center. Free.