The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Folger may be closed for renovation, but its public programming will continue

“The Merry Wives of Windsor,” set in the 1970's at the Folger Theatre, is the last production in the Folger’s Elizabethan Theatre before the building shuts down for a two-year renovation. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

At some Washington theaters, audience members have been known to arrive as close to curtain time as possible. That’s less typically the case at the Folger Theatre, where playgoers could show up early to browse Shakespeare-themed exhibitions in the Great Hall before heading to their seats.

But with construction closing the Folger’s library and exhibition spaces for at least two years, the Folger has been forced to get creative with the programming surrounding “The Merry Wives of Windsor” — its last on-site production before the renovation gets underway — and the long-running O.B. Hardison Poetry series.

‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ gives the Folger a groovy send-off — for now

“We’ll be able to do what we need to do in terms of events,” says Peter Eramo, the Folger’s events and marketing manager, promising they’ll continue “as if nothing’s happening.”

Most of the related happenings will take place across Third Street SE at the Haskell Center, which houses the Folger’s offices. These include a pre-show reception and talk about “The Merry Wives of Windsor” with Folger Shakespeare Library Director Michael Witmore (Jan. 29 at 6:30 p.m., $20), and a Brews and Banter discussion with members of the cast, fueled by complimentary Bluejacket beers and snacks (Feb. 21 at 6:30 p.m., $15).

Not directly related to the current play is a Valentine’s Day rom-com trivia night (6 p.m., $15), a pop-culture-fueled competition for teams where the questions could be about “anything to do with romance or comedy,” Eramo explains, whether that’s “When Harry Met Sally” or teen movies inspired by Shakespeare.

Some events will still be held in the Folger Theatre itself, such as the Hysterical Women night of stand-up and improv (Jan. 31 at 6 p.m., $10), and the Love and Happiness poetry reading (Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m., $15). But events are beginning to migrate away. The free monthly Shake Up Your Saturday family program moves to President Lincoln’s Cottage in February (“The United States of Shakespeare,” Feb. 1) and then to the Southeast Neighborhood Library near Eastern Market (“Cram Thee With More Food,” March 7).

The O.B. Hardison Poetry series is just as nomadic, with March’s “Motherhood Redux” reading at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (March 11 at 7 p.m.), before the Phillips Collection hosts the following month, featuring poet Terrance Hayes responding to the museum’s “Riffs and Relations” exhibition (April 23, 6:30 p.m.). “We’ve been looking at other venues, thematically trying to find a museum or venue that fits whatever the reading would be,” Eramo says.

Summer at the Folger “is usually pretty quiet,” Eramo says, since the theater season runs from the fall through the spring, though there will be extensive programming this summer at the National Building Museum. And then the Folger has to start planning for life away from its Elizabethan Theater. The pre-show talks and monthly poetry readings should continue uninterrupted even though dates and locations for event programming are yet to be confirmed. Shakespeare-philes will be able to get their fix, even if it’s not in the usual surroundings on East Capitol Street.