Folger names Karen Ann Daniels artistic director and director of programming

The theater and the Shakespeare library choose a leader with roots in community engagement.

Karen Ann Daniels, director of the Mobile Unit at The Public Theater in New York City, has been named Artistic Director of Folger Theatre and the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Director of Programming following a national search. Daniels will lead the vision and strategy for cultural programming across the institution, including theater performances, concerts, poetry readings, talks, screenings, and other humanities programs inspired by the Folger collection, in the Folger’s historic Elizabethan Theatre as well as new galleries and public spaces created by the building renovation. Succeeding Janet Alexander Griffin, who retired in spring 2021, Daniels will start in October 2021.

“I believe the humanities and arts, particularly theater, are essential to evolve our ideological, emotional, and human connection, especially now,” notes Daniels. “Ensuring these resources are available to all of DC is vital! I am so proud to join the Folger as it is uniquely positioned to fill that need.”

Karen Ann Daniels. Photo by Garlia Cornelia Jones.

As Director of The Public Theater’s Mobile Unit, Daniels has brought theater and the arts to community centers and spaces around New York City. She is currently overseeing the Mobile Unit’s Summer of Joy, a free four-week tour to public plazas in all five boroughs from July 31 through August 29 in partnership with the National Black Theatre, New York City’s Department of Transportation, and the People’s Bus (a project of the NYC Civic Engagement Commission). She has also launched new programs such as Mobile Unit in Corrections: Hip-Hop vs Shakespeare, which brings the tools of theater to incarcerated communities.

“I’m delighted that Karen Ann Daniels is bringing her talents and experience to the Folger,” says Folger Director Michael Witmore. “She will bring her own deeply inclusive vision of Shakespeare to the work of Folger Programs, connecting more deeply with DC communities and combining our public offerings — performance, music, poetry, humanities conversations, exhibitions — in new and exciting ways that build on the rich history of Folger public programs.”

In her prior role as the associate director of The Old Globe’s arts engagement department, she managed community partnerships, and created, piloted, and implemented cornerstone programs such as Globe for All, coLAB (devising plays with and for community), Community Voices (community as playwright), and Reflecting Shakespeare (Shakespeare in corrections).

Daniels, a native San Diegan, joined the Globe in 2013, after working in the technology sector and as a teaching artist and director with Studio East’s ArtsReach! Program in Seattle, Washington. In 2019, her new musical The Ruby in Us premiered as part of The Old Globe coLAB project, which she co-created with the Fourth District Seniors Resource Center in San Diego.

An accomplished actor, director, playwright, vocalist and musician, Daniels most recently worked as a visiting artist and co-devised a digital musical with theater students from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California. Gather ‘round, which she served as composer / lyricist / collaborating playwright, premiered online in April 2021.

Daniels served as chair of the City of Chula Vista’s Cultural Arts Commission, held a seat on the Leadership of the New California Arts Fund Leadership committee, and was co-chair of the Learning Committee, representing the future of arts engagement for a cross-section of California arts organizations, through The James Irvine Foundation. She is also a co-producer and facilitator for the Shakespeare in Prisons Network and biannual Shakespeare in Prisons Conference, which was part of the Folger Institute’s 2020–21 scholarly programs. Most recently, she’s been selected as a 2021 Atlantic Fellow for Racial Equity. She holds a BA in Art History from UCLA, an MFA in Musical Theater from San Diego State University, and a certificate in Shakespeare from the British American Drama Academy.

Interior of the Folger Theatre., courtesy of Folger Theatre. Interior of Folger Shakespeare Library, photo by David Reeve.

Folger Shakespeare Library is the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, the ultimate resource for exploring Shakespeare and his world. The Folger welcomes millions of visitors online and in person. We provide unparalleled access to a huge array of resources, from original sources to modern interpretations. With the Folger, you can experience the power of performance, the wonder of exhibitions, and the excitement of path breaking research. We offer the opportunity to see and even work with early modern sources, driving discovery and transforming education for students of all ages.

The Folger’s historic 1932 building, designed by architect Paul Cret, is currently undergoing a major renovation to expand public spaces, improve accessibility, and enhance the experience for all who come to the Folger. During this multiyear building renovation, join Folger online and on the road.

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