The Folger Shakespeare Library, in partnership with the American Library
Association and the Cincinnati Museum Center, is touring an original copy
of “The First Folio” of Shakespeare’s plays throughout the United States in
2016. The Tweed Museum of Art (at the University of Minnesota in Duluth)
will be the only exhibition site in the state of Minnesota.

Tweed Museum has been closed to the public for several months, as the
museum itself has been renovated for the display of “The First Folio.” The
insurance rules-and-specifications have been exacting. The ventilation and
other systems have been re-shaped and re-designed.

“The First Folio” was published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s
death. This Folio is composed of over thirty of his most famous plays,
including Julius Caesar and Macbeth. The Folger Library holds the world’s
largest array of First Folios, of which 82 are in its collections.


After the American Civil War, the port city of Duluth was regarded as being
a frontier settlement, an outpost before the terrible wilderness of “The
Great Northwest.” At that time the city was largely populated by
lumberjacks and timber-cruisers, mineral explorers and miners, publicans,
dockers and wharfies, trappers, surveyors, scouts, and whore-masters.

One day in the hurly-burly of that frontier, Plunkett’s Theatrical Company
arrived by lake-steamer at the port. The actors unloaded their sets,
props, and costumes. Mr. Plunkett himself announced to the public that it
was their intention to be the very first dramatic troupe to perform ALL of
Shakespeare’s plays at this remote wilderness town.

“The Theatre Shack,” the largest auditorium in Duluth at the time, was made
ready. Mr. Plunkett, with all the wild flare of P.T. Barnum, introduced
the first play of their cycle, which would be “Othello.” Trumpets were
sounded, and the actors sweated their way from scene to scene. But, as
“The Willow Scene” began, a fist-fight broke out in the audience. Soon
this duel with fists and knives became a much more collective brawl.
Later, the brawl exploded out of “The Theatre Shack” and became, for
three-nights and three-days, a fully-fledged riot, a bloody riot throughout
the downtown of Duluth.

Newspapers across the United States and Canada reported “The Great
Shakespeare Riots” in Duluth, Minnesota. Plunkett and his actors,
grappling with their baggage and props, fled by steam-ship to Chicago,
never to return.

Mark Twain, for several years, in his own stage-show, had great fun with
Mr. Plunkett, the wild frontier, Shakespeare, and Duluth. Mark Twain, in
his own inimitable style, slapped his knee, and laughed and laughed.

[For additional information about “The Great Shakespeare Riots” in Duluth,
see “THE DULUTH PLAYHOUSE” by Fred W. Meitzer — 1966, Ohio State


Throughout the world there have been, and continue to be, theatre
superstitions about Shakespeare’s MACBETH. Any production of the play
brings particular “bad luck.” Everybody knows this. However, in Duluth
ANY production of ANY Shakespeare play is regarded as being very jinxed and
unlucky. Any such production will succumb to nothing but “bad luck” and
Plunkett’s Curse. Thus there have been very few productions of these plays
in Duluth during the last 150 years.


*ARCHIVES & SPECIAL COLLECTIONS* of The Kathryn A. Martin Library at UMD,
in contrast to the touring copy of “The First Folio” soon to be displayed
at the Tweed Museum of Art, have prepared an exhibition of their own, in
the Ramseyer Display Cases on the Fourth Floor of the Library. This
exhibition indicates the scant record of performances of Shakespeare’s
plays in the city of Duluth.

The archivists searched back to the 1930s to find two productions of
Shakespeare plays by The Duluth Playhouse. (Those efforts were derived
from two sensational productions on Broadway, one directed by Orson Welles
and the other directed by Max Reinhardt.) Also, several productions by UMD
Theatre have been documented in this A & SC Library exhibition.

However, one *focus* for the Ramseyer Display is a series of Shakespeare
plays performed during the 1970s and 1980s by BLACKTHORN THEATER, under the
artistic direction of Séamas Cain. Included in the exhibit are posters,
news releases and other publicity materials, correspondence, programs,
scenarios, scripts, photographs, the director’s notes, reviews, etc., etc.

Blackthorn Theater was/is an avantgarde theater. It was/is defined as
being an Imagist Theater, in which the making and presenting of image takes
precedence over “acting.”

Blackthorn Theater discarded superstitions, conventionalities, and clichés.


But what happens when the cultural establishment abandons the “classics”?

What happens when the avantgarde takes hold of the discarded “classics”?


This “SHAKESPEARE IN DULUTH” exhibition in the Ramseyer Display Cases will
continue from today through the end of October. For additional
information, please contact Archives & Special Collections at …


Tomorrow and tomorrow,

Séamas Cain



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