July 23, 2024

Review: Kraft explores the Bard’s ‘First Folio’

Barry Kraft speaking at an earlier event about Shakespeare's works.
November 26, 2023

Tribute to 400th anniversary of collection of Shakespeare’s works wraps up with two events this week

By Geoff Ridden for

Barry Kraft

The celebration continues
Rounding off this month’s First Folio series of events at the Ashland Public Library are two events:
What Show is This? Evolving Approaches to Designing Shakespeare. 4-5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28. Staging Shakespeare has evolved over time and the way we approach designing Shakespeare’s plays says as much about the present as it might the past. We reflect on approaches to staging Shakespeare’s plays and consider how changing design trends reflect the zeitgeist of the moment with speaker Tara A. Houston, the Cultural and Community Liaison for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Music from Shakespeare’s Time with Musica Matrix. 3 to 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30. Rebecca Bittner and Pat O’Scannell of local renaissance and medieval music nonprofit Musica Matrix will play duets from Thomas Morley’s “Ayres or Little Short Songs” on recorder and viola da gamba.

This month a good part of the English-speaking world celebrated the 400th anniversary of the publication of the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays, the First Folio.

Ashland has, of course, long been a focus for all things Shakespearean, with its rare book holdings in Hannon Library at Southern Oregon University and the staging of his plays at Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

This series had at its heart a talk on Nov. 14 entitled “Barry Kraft Explores the First Folio.” Who better to talk about this volume than an actor, author and dramaturg who was involved with OSF for 31 seasons, and who has acted in all of Shakespeare’s plays?

Kraft explained why (wherefore) this book came to be published as a folio, and the process which led to the collection of these plays, some of which had never been previously published in any format.

He is a consummate performer who delighted his attentive and appreciative audience (which included current OSF actors) with his wit and charm as well as his erudition and authority.

He started by concentrating on the plays which had not previously been published in any form before the First Folio — which allowed him to act out speeches from these works — and went on to argue, convincingly in my view, that the placing of the first four plays in the First Folio was a deliberate decision: none of these plays had been published before and their presence at the start of this new volume might well have been a ploy to attract potential buyers.

He emphasized that no previous folio had ever consisted solely of plays, and that this expensive format was usually the province of scholarly works and sermons.

We are fortunate indeed that Kraft has chosen to make his home in Ashland, and we should be grateful to him for his contribution to our cultural life.

Geoff Ridden has been based in Ashland for the past 15 years, having previously taught in universities in West Africa, Europe and the USA. In his retirement he has written reviews of books and plays for a number of publications, as well as giving talks in OSF’s Carpenter Noon series. He can be reached at

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