The Folger Shakespeare Library is William Shakespeare’s home in America and represents the living legacy of a storyteller and poet who wrote powerfully about the choices, conflicts and desires that make us human.
Shakespeare’s plays and poems ask us to think again about who we are and what drives us. This is why we feel as an institution that his works serve as a fine springboard for not only a new play, District Merchants, but also for a range of conversations about difference and identity–two topics that Shakespeare addressed head on in The Merchant of Venice and in many other of his plays. Thus—in collaboration with the Anacostia Community Museum, DC Public Libraries, DC Public Schools, the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, the Metropolitan AME Church, Trinity Washington University, and the National Endowment for the Humanities—CrossTalk is born.
Why get involved in a DC-wide conversation about race and religion, about identity and difference? Because each of us has a perspective on these issues, and each of us has something to learn from and add to that conversation. Works of art can draw us into dialogue about issues that may be difficult, and which might not be approachable in any other way.
Shakespeare provides a starting point for that conversation, but it is one that community members will shape as they take this conversation wherever it needs to go. I hope that CrossTalk DC will lead to a set of meaningful dialogues around race and religious difference that are needed at this point in our community and our history.
Your participation means a great deal. I hope that we can all learn more about our shared humanity – and the multiple perspectives we bring to the issues raised by these plays – in the course of the CrossTalk DC events and discussions across the city.