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The History of Henry

ae_henryShakespeare Santa Cruz closes its summer season with a production of ‘Henry IV, Part I’
Shakespeare Santa Cruz Artistic Director Marco Barricelli and dramaturg Michael Warren can be found in a darkly lit office on the UC Santa Cruz campus conversing about Shakespeare. Both men are more than knowledgeable on the subject; most importantly, however, are their respective skills in transferring this knowledge to the milieu of the stage.

The conversation quickly turns to “Henry IV, Part I,” the final show in this summer’s Shakespeare Santa Cruz season. It’s a play Warren believes to be the most popular play of Shakespeare’s time. When asked why, he points to the fact that Shakespeare’s first folio alludes to the popularity of “Henry IV.”

Barricelli chimes in about the character of Falstaff in “Henry IV.” He explains that the play acquires its popularity from that character.

 

Falstaff plays the fat, comedic father figure and questionable sidekick to Hal, the son of King Henry IV and future King Henry V of England. Falstaff aids Hal in finding the courage to prove to his father that he, instead of the rebellious Hotspur, should be successor to the throne.“[Falstaff] is enormously compelling. I find him at once funny and pathetic, heartbreaking, joyous, and dangerous. He encompasses it all,” Barricelli says. He adds of Hal, “One has to embrace the ambiguousness in that character; it’s a much more textured character. There are no easy answers for [Hal].”

The play, believed to have been written no later than 1597, points to the past to tell a tale of a man that was to become one of the greatest kings of England.  Warren remembers a notable comment of Scott Wentworth, who is directing this year’s adaptation. “Our director, Scott, thinks [Henry IV] sat in the imagination of Elizabethan people the way the Civil War sits in the imaginations of Americans now,” he says.

It is this idea that Warren says drives the history plays, as he believes it to be one of the links between “Henry IV” and “The Three Musketeers.” Warren illustrates: “You think of Shakespeare in 1596 looking back at the events of 1404. Then you have us looking at Dumas’ work in the 1800s and when he’s looking back at the 1640s. You get the present history looking back at the older history and doing something with that.”

For Barricelli, “Henry IV, Part I” is a step forward for the 30th anniversary of SSC. “From what I’ve been watching, it’s going to be a very dynamic production,” Barricelli says. “It’s joyful for me to sit there and watch the complexities, especially in these actors’ hands who are so good. It’s a real privilege to be a witness to this kind of theater.”

 


“Henry IV, Part I” opened Aug. 2 at the Sinsheimer-Stanley Festival Glen at Shakespeare Santa Cruz on the UCSC campus. For more information, visit shakespearesantacruz.org or call 459-2159. Tickets are $14-$20.
Photo caption: hail the king The young Prince Hal (Erik Heger), heir to the throne, spends his time surrounded by friends, women, and pleasure while war rages in the Kingdom in Shakespeare Santa Cruz’s 2011 production of “Henry IV, Part One.”  Photo courtesy Shakespeare Santa Cruz.

 

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