Institute Content, Format & Schedule


The theme of the 2024 Institute is “Nature, Culture, and the Grounds of Good Government in Shakespeare’s Plays.” Participants will explore this theme through two Shakespeare plays: As You Like It and King Lear.


The curriculum for “Nature, Culture, and the Grounds of Good Government in Shakespeare’s Plays” focuses on how ideas about nature impact views of good government at the individual, family, and political levels.

Examples include: the ethical and material claims of the non-human environment; the interdependence among beings of various species; the significance, in a status culture, of biologically inherited qualities; the affordances and burdens of “civilization;” the interrelated spheres of family, community, and state; and the importance of education and cultivation.

In our own time, these issues centrally inform debates about the responsibility of governments for climate change and its remediation; the disproportionate impact of natural disasters on poor and marginalized populations; the effects of capitalism and deregulation on the distribution of natural resources; and the systemic racism informing health crises. Definitions of the “natural” (or the “unnatural”) have also been central in granting or denying certain political rights and opportunities based on race, gender, or sexuality.

In addition to the Shakespeare texts themselves, Institute faculty will introduce diverse points of view, drawing on recent exciting work on ecology and ecocriticism; early modern political, social, and familial history and thought; and gender, sexuality and critical race studies. By focusing on a tragedy that is regularly taught in high schools, and a comedy that is less familiar but accessible and enjoyable, the Institute aims to create a manageable intellectual framework for exploring common themes that will be useful for teachers in their classrooms across a range of texts.

The approach provides a bridge between scholarly analysis of text and context and the challenges of performance in which artists must make creative choices about the use of language.



The Institute runs for two weeks from 10:00am until 5:00pm Monday through Friday at Polonsky Shakespeare Center unless otherwise noted. Morning and afternoon sessions focus on the academic and theatrical considerations embedded in the plays under investigation. Scholars and teaching artists work together to plan daily activities that reinforce each other’s work, creating a seamless interface between scholarly and creative investigations. In addition, lunches and evening activities offer participants access to other scholars, guest experts, and theatre professionals. Evening assignments prepare participants for the following day’s discussions, and theatre outings provide a further basis for discussion of the concepts participants are learning in class. During the Institute, participants will attend two Shakespeare (or other relevant) productions as a group, preceded by a dinner and discussion of the play.

During the first seven days of the Institute, Professors Julie Crawford and Mario DiGangi will ground participants in the basics of sound scholarly research and theatrical practice, while theatre practitioners Krista Apple and Claudia Zelevansky will work with participants on the challenges of interpretation and performance that arise from deep scholarly analysis of text. In the last three days, participants will take on roles from professional theatre (director, actor, dramaturg, designer, etc) to focus intensely on incorporating what they have learned as they prepare for final scene performances on the last day of the Institute. Throughout the Institute, participants will work with K-12 Specialist Maria Fahey and TFANA’s Director of Education Lindsay Tanner to prepare to apply their experience to their classroom teaching.



The 2024 Schedule is forthcoming. For a sense of what to expect, please click here for the 2022 Institute Schedule.

Questions? Contact us at


folio-2016A copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, which participants get to view and handle on the Columbia University Rare Book & Manuscript Library tour.

TFANA_logo24 copyPolonsky Shakespeare Center, home to the NEH Summer Institute

Participants rehearse onstage in the 299-seat mainstage theatre at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, which brings together the design of an Elizabethan courtyard theatre with state-of-the-art modern theatre technology

TFANA’s NEH Summer Institute is made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.

Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Pictured above: A participant in the 2022 NEH Summer Institute examining a text from the 1600s in Columbia University’s Rare Book Room. Photo by Hollis King.