Celebrating 100 episodes of Shakespeare Unlimited

IMAGE: collage of photos and illustrations, with the logo for the Folger's Shakespeare Unlimited podcast.

Today, we’re releasing the 100th episode of our podcast, Shakespeare Unlimited. Since 2015, when we kicked things off with an episode about Nelson Mandela and the Robben Island Shakespeare, we’ve met the people who answer letters to Juliet, chatted with rappers (on more than one occasion), explored the complicated intersections of Shakespeare and race, and much, much more.

To celebrate, we asked the people behind the podcast for a favorite episode or memory from the past few years.

Michael Witmore, Folger Director

“Shakespeare is the great connector, having told stories and written poetry that have inspired so many people in so many different ways. We’re thrilled that Shakespeare Unlimited has reached its 100th episode, and that it continues to connect people with Shakespeare and the Folger.”

Garland Scott, Associate Producer

“I’ve always been an advocate for the Shakespeare in pop culture episodes—William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, Pop Sonnets, the Kill Shakespeare comic books, television shows like Empire and Will. They’re great fun to listen to and really capture Shakespeare’s continuing relevance 400 years later.”

 

Gail Kern Paster, Editor and Folger Director Emerita

“Once, when I was Director, I went to Richard’s tiny studio to record some introductions for a precursor to the Shakespeare Unlimited series. Sitting there, in his soundproof space lined with soundproofing material, all I could hear was the sound of the cat on the other side of the door scratching to get in and see what fun that was happening inside. It’s a rather different story when you are in the NPR studios with Neva Grant, headphones on, being the one interviewed. Thank God for Richard’s brilliant editing!”

 

Barbara Bogaev, Host

“I record SU interviews at my usual voice-over studio  in Studio City, Los Angeles, and I’m writing this from VoiceTrax West after speaking with Steven Berkoff. When I started here, the owner was the bassist for the band Alice Cooper. Most of the engineers are serious musicians, but the core business is the usual LA fare; commercials, video game and animation character voice-overs, and a few podcasts, including one called That’s So Retrograde, about astrology. My engineers have told me, more than once, Shakespeare Unlimited is by far the most highbrow production they’ve ever worked on. They’re used to actors like George Clooney and Ryan Gosling hanging out in the waiting room, but Derek Jacobi and Antony Sher were eye-opening for them. They say they feel as if they’re getting a masters in Shakespeare by just manning the board every week.”

 

Esther Ferington, Shakespeare Unlimited Editor

“My favorite episode has to be “The Shakespearean Moons of Uranus”—a planet discovered 165 years after Shakespeare’s death, but whose 27 known moons are nearly all named for characters from the plays. I knew almost nothing about this topic when I suggested it, but Shakespeare Unlimited producer Richard Paul wove together an amazing story that stretched from the 1700s to the 21st century and includes countless voices and interviews. I’m not sure the story of these moons has ever been told this way or in such detail in any format; this was a milestone for the podcast.”

 

Ben Lauer, Folger Social Media and Communications Assistant

“My all-time favorite episode is probably episode 60, “Why, Here’s a Girl,” which is about early modern girlhood and the girls in Shakespeare’s plays. I would have thought that I knew Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet like the back of my hand, but York University’s Deanne Williams makes them feel completely fresh by re-reading Ophelia and Juliet and examining what Shakespeare’s idea of a “girl” was. Williams puts it best when she says:

“I had these ideas of Juliet, sort of a cultural memory of Juliet, which was very different from what I encountered on Shakespeare’s pages… all the way through we see that she is someone who consistently resists the models that have been provided for her, for how a girl is supposed to act.”

 

We also heard from some of our beloved listeners. They found our interview with Laura Bates, about teaching Shakespeare in a supermax prison, inspiring. . . 

 

. . . and loved getting to know Orson Welles with Michael Anderegg. 

They told us where they listen. . . 

. . . and who they listen with.

On episode 100, we talk with eminent Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt about his new book, Tyrant. Take a listen, then tell us what you love about Shakespeare Unlimited with #SHXUnlimited100.

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