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Peter Sellars, the renowned avant-garde theater director, and Ayanna Thompson, a prominent Shakespeare scholar, will discuss the ways Shakespeare remains relevant in our contemporary American world. From expressions of black rage to the challenges facing systems of justice, they hope to illustrate how Shakespeare’s plays provide rich texts through which the most pressing problems in our world can be debated and solutions become, perhaps, imaginable.

*Presented as part of The Library Foundation’s new exhibition, “America’s Shakespeare: The Bard Goes West.

Peter Sellars

Peter Sellars has gained international renown for his groundbreaking and transformative interpretations of artistic masterpieces and for collaborative projects with an extraordinary range of creative artists. Past projects include The Merchant of Venice and Othello with John Ortiz and Philip Seymour Hoffman; Desdemona, a collaboration with Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison and Malian composer and singer Rokia Traoré,  and A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Chamber Play at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario. Upcoming projects in 2017 include productions of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito at the Salzburg Festival and the premiere of John Adams’ new opera Girls of the Golden West at the San Francisco Opera. Peter Sellars is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance and Director of the new Boethius Initiative at UCLA.


Ayanna Thompson

Ayanna Thompson is Professor of English at George Washington University, and she specializes in Renaissance drama and issues of race in/as performance. She is the author of Teaching Shakespeare with Purpose: A Student-Centred Approach (2016), Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America (2011), and Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage (2008). She wrote the new introduction for the revised Arden3 Othello, and is the editor of Weyward Macbeth: Intersections of Race and Performance (2010) and Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance (2006). Professor Thompson has served as a Trustee of the Shakespeare Association of America and a member of the Board of Directors for the Association of Marshall Scholars.


Reservation Policy for Free Programs:
As most ALOUD at Central Library programs are free of charge, it is our policy to overbook. In the case of a FULL program your free reservation may not guarantee admission. We recommend arriving early. Space permitting, unclaimed reservations will be released to standby patrons at approximately 7 PM.

Standby Policy:
Standby numbers are distributed in person only one hour before the program, on a first-come, first-served, basis. There is no advance wait list for full programs. Standby patrons will be admitted subject to availability. Most programs will be available via podcast.

Book Signing Policy:
ALOUD is one of many free programs at the Los Angeles Public Library made possible by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. Most ALOUD author programs are followed by book signings. At least one copy of the author’s book must be purchased from The Library Store in order to participate in any post-program book signing, and you will be asked to show proof of purchase. Please be prepared to show your proof of purchase when you enter the book signing line. Proceeds support the Los Angeles Public Library.

Main image: Rokia Traoré and Tina Benko in DESDEMONA (written by Toni Morrison; directed by Peter Sellars) Barbican Hall, 2012   Credit: Mark Allen


Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the reservation policy for ALOUD?

    As most ALOUD at Central Library programs are free of charge, it is our policy to overbook. In the case of a FULL program your free reservation may not guarantee admission. We recommend arriving early. Space permitting, unclaimed reservations will be released to standby patrons at 7 PM.

  • Why do programs fill so quickly?

    ALOUD provides a unique experience for the public to engage with scholars, authors, and artists in the intimate 235-seat Mark Taper Auditorium. Library Foundation Members have the benefit of reserving for programs in advance of the public. Consider joining as a Member to receive this benefit, and check the website on an on-going basis for program availability. Be sure to subscribe to our email alerts, and visit our Media Archive for podcasts and other items from our recent programs.

  • Where does ALOUD take place?

    Unless otherwise noted, ALOUD programs are held at the downtown Central Library’s Mark Taper Auditorium.

  • Where should I park for ALOUD programs?

    We recommend taking public transportation. Parking for the Central Library is at the Westlawn Garage at 524 S. Flower Street. For more information, visit the Library’s website.

  • Should I purchase the author’s book in advance?

    We encourage you to purchase books from the Library Store. All proceeds benefit the Los Angeles Public Library. Books are made available for purchase when you reserve for a program online, and are also on sale at programs. In order to participate in the book signing, you must purchase at least one book from The Library Store. Members receive discounts on purchases.