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Henry V
04.11–14.24 | Glaize Studio Theatre
Henry V

Henry V

 by William Shakespeare

"The perfect king . . . an imperfect world . . . something's gotta give."

Adapted and Directed by Kit Wilder
Jake Emmerling
Olivia Gordon*

*in partial fulfillment of a B.F.A. in Theatre Design & Production

Any photography, video and/or audio recording of this production is strictly prohibited.

This performance contains minimal production elements, focusing instead on language and storytelling. Reflective of the “storefront theatre” style, all production elements have been designed by the cast and director as a collective.

April 11–14, 2024
Glaize Studio Theatre
Shenandoah Conservatory

Suggested Show Rating: PG-13

WARNING: This production contains theatrical haze and the use of stage weapons. Contact the Box Office or speak with an usher for more information.

Director's Note

"The perfect man . . . an imperfect world . . . something's gotta give."

I've been planning this production since 1991, when I first fell under the spell of this magnificent, cagey, seductive, and highly ambiguous play. At once a bombastic, jingoistic celebration of England's most iconic medieval king, Henry V is also a scathing critique of a man buffeted by the many conspiring forces of international politics, internal strife, and war — within and without. No wonder it remains Shakespeare's most popular history play, 425 years after it was first presented! It's nothing if not current!

I first suggested doing the play here at a season planning meeting over a year ago. We were looking for a play for the "unsupported" slot, whose production would be in the hands of the director and cast almost exclusively, without relying on the time and talent of the many brilliant, hardworking, and too often overextended technical departments that serve other SU productions. (The help we have received from them, in ways both large and small, has been essential to the production however!) A suitably stripped down, "bare-stage" production of Henry is supported, even suggested, by the text itself: “Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts,” instructs the Chorus as the play opens, encouraging the audience to use their imaginations to help the actors tell the story. Any audience of Henry has to do some of the work, in order to see the story more fully, and flesh it out. And isn't that what theatre is really all about?

Technically, therefore, this production is very simple. I want the words to be the star of the show. Listen to the words. Everything you need to know is in the words. Shakespeare knew what he was doing. (And yes, there was a Shakespeare. This is a hill upon which I will gladly die!)

Also, I wanted to cast the play with no thought at all to gender, ethnicity, and so on. I wanted actors who could play the roles, period. And as luck would have it, I was able to do just that. While there are only three female roles in the original play, I have a cast of all gender identities in a total of more than two dozen named parts — including a brilliant young black woman as King Henry himself. This is happening in the theatre all over the country — all over the world, in fact — and it's about time. I therefore wanted the cast of Henry to be as diverse as possible.

And there's no "declaiming" in this production! Following the example of Shakespeare companies everywhere, I have asked the actors to speak very much as they speak. There is no need, when acting Shakespeare, to put on a funny voice, use an English accent, etc.  His characters are people, and the actors in this production speak as they do in life — just a little more clearly and emphatically, perhaps, so that you can hear and understand them, and to suit the tenor of the moment. And that's how it should be. I believe that, presented this way, Shakespeare is the most accessible of all playwrights; he's writing about you, after all.

And then there's the battle of Agincourt, Henry's famous long-odds victory in 1415 over a much larger French army. In the play, only a few very brief scenes are dedicated to the battle, and there is no fighting to speak of. Even the Chorus introduces it apologetically. Well, I'm a fight guy. I've been teaching and directing fights and other stage mayhem for decades. And some amazing students have come out of my combat classes here at Shenandoah. So I couldn't have that. I couldn't do Henry V without a battle. Suffice it to say, we have a battle. Hang on to your hats.

— Kit Wilder
Adjunct Instructor, Shenandoah Conservatory
Stage Combat, Directing, Playwriting, Performance Styles

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Shenandoah University is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All gifts are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.