The Wonder of Will Live: Hear from Kal Penn, Justice Stephen Breyer, and other presenters

What better way to pay tribute to the world’s greatest storyteller than with stories, Folger Director Michael Witmore said as he welcomed the audience to a special event commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death on April 23, The Wonder of Will Live.

The chancellor of DC Public Schools, NASA’s chief scientist, and other guests shared their Shakespeare stories onstage at the event, broadcast live on C-SPAN2’s Book TV from the Folger’s historic Paster Reading Room. Afterwards, Book TV’s Peter Slen hosted a national call-in show with Michael Witmore and Ellen MacKay, director of Indiana University’s Institute for the Digital Arts and Humanities. The archived program is available to watch on the C-SPAN website.

In this clip from The Wonder of Will Live, actor Kal Penn, who shares a birthday with Shakespeare on April 23, recalls watching the Franco Zeffirelli adaptation of Romeo and Juliet in high school, and how it changed his mind about Shakespeare: 

“I actually did read and started to understand and then fell in love with Shakespeare. I started to understand the beauty of his words, the symbolism and universality. I grew up in New Jersey in the early and mid-90’s and this Capulet-Montague beef is about the same as what we’d see on the local news except New Jersey local news talked about mob families. Replace Verona with Hoboken and you’ve got yourself the opener to a mafia movie.”

One of the final presenters, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, shared how he encourages his students to spend time learning about lives that aren’t their own: “With your one life, you better know about a few others, and you better understand what this world is like. And if you have that desire, and I surely hope you do, you can do worse than start with William Shakespeare.”

April 23 may be past, but the Folger will continue to celebrate 400 years of Shakespeare throughout 2016 with special events, exhibitions, performances, and more.

Share your own Shakespeare story! Make a video and post on social media using #MySHX400. Get more Shakespeare in your life by signing up for our free newsletter, Shakespeare Plus.

 

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