Debi van Zyl

America's Shakespeare


Taking as its core the Folger Shakespeare Library’s exhibition, America’s Shakespeare, the exhibit gave additional insight into the playwright’s absorption into California’s history and culture. The literal centerpiece of the exhibit was a First Folio (1623), displayed on a compass rose. The Bard Goes West also drew on the collections of state and local resources to show Shakespeare’s presence in the grand 19th century theaters of San Francisco and Sacramento, the saloons and hotels of the mining camp towns, and the early film industry in Los Angeles.

Inspired by stage and theater sets, we created large backdrops for showcases, giving context to objects and texts. These included the Ford Theater, a ghost-town opera house, Modjeska's Arden estate, the Hollywood Bowl, and re-imagined elementary school play backdrops and props. The back sides of these "flats" illustrated a select number of plays, their plots, the characters, and their (often) tragic outcomes. Sensitive and fragile books and artifacts where paired with modern and contemporary objects that signaled Shakespeare's continuing influence on our language, literature, and media today.

America's Shakespeare: The Bard Goes West

Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles, CA
November 17, 2016–February 24, 2017

with Annex Design Services