Metro Weekly

The National Building Museum’s Special Playhouse

The National Building Museum's newly constructed 'playhouse' hosts both The Folger's Midsummer Night's Dream, and several ancillary events.

National Building Museum
The Playhouse under construction at the National Building Museum

Guests to the National Building Museum are certain to fall under a certain enchanting magical spell, one conjured up by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

By night, performers from Folger Theatre bring to life the beloved comedy from inside a specially designed pop-up theater, located inside the museum’s immense Great Hall.

Named The Playhouse, the structure will also serve as the home of this year’s annual Summer Block Party and a full slate of daytime programming.

But whether it’s museumgoers by day or theatergoers by night, visitors will first encounter A Midsummer Forest, an immersive installation set up in the museum’s West Court.

Brought to life by Southside Design & Building, the forest is based on Joanna Robson’s A Knavish Lad, a double-concertina book that visually narrates every scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Throughout July and most of August, the museum and grounds will be buzzing with events and activities daily, including theater and music performances, talks and readings, tours, and interactive workshops. Much of the special programming is free or included with the cost of museum admission.

Among the programming highlights are Backstage Tours, offering a 45-minute guided experience through the Playhouse and Midsummer Forest, twice daily, and Music on the Lawn performances featuring D.C.’s Latin band Sol y Rumba with founder Maria Isolina on July 28.

August brings hip-hop artist Malik Work performing an original spoken-word piece inspired by Midsummer (8/4), local folk/bluegrass four-piece Justin Trawick & The Common Good (8/11), and Kristen “Drum Lady” Arant with her intergenerational all-women drumming ensemble Bele Bele Rhythm Collective (8/18); the Mexican and U.S. musicians who perform together as The Frontera Project (7/29-31); Late Night at NBM, a special evening with museum exhibitions open, a performance by The Frontera Project, plus light bites and drinks (8/1, $25); “Spotlight on Design: Renovation of the Folger,” conversation with Folger Shakespeare Library Director Michael Witmore and architect Stephen Kieran discussing the Library’s multi-year renovation project (8/8, $15).

The Playhouse opens July 1. The National Building Museum is at 401 F St. NW. Museum admission is $10. Call 202-272-2448 or visit

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