“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”

That is the thread that runs through Shakespeare’s coming-of-age story “Henry IV,” one of his most celebrated plays, which is making its way to the Gladys G. Davis Theatre in the West Virginia University Creative Arts Center, April 16-17 and 22-27. It is a production of the WVU School of Theatre and Dance.

As the play opens, Henry IV has not been enjoying a quiet reign since usurping the throne from his cousin, Richard II. Not only is he at odds with the Percy family (who aided him in his claim to the throne) but he is dealing with a rebellion on the Scottish and Welsh borders. Another cause of his uneasiness is his son and heir, Prince Hal, who is determined to spend his time making merry in the tavern with his charming and manipulative friend, Sir John Falstaff, instead of preparing to become the next king.

As the threat of war looms, will Hal take up the mantle of responsibility and finally be the leader his father has always longed for him to be?

This production of “Henry IV” (Parts 1 and 2) has been adapted into one seamless drama by Sarah Neville, assistant professor in the Department of English at WVU, whose many specialties include Shakespeare’s works.

Her adaptation enables the audience to get the full impact of Prince Hal’s tumultuous journey to the throne.

Neville is assistant editor of the New Oxford Shakespeare Project and a general textual editor of the Digital Renaissance Editions, and has published in Shakespeare and in Shakespeare Bulletin.

Although she has performed in Shakespeare’s plays and taught courses on his works, her primary research centers around the means by which literature (including Shakespeare) comes down to us through the physical artifact of the printed book.

Therefore, coinciding with the run of “Henry IV,” Neville will give a free public lecture about her adaptation process titled “Break[ing] into this Woman’s mood: The Lab Space of Shakespeare’s ‘Henry IV.’” The lecture will be held Wednesday, April 23, at 2:30 p.m., in the Robinson Reading Room of the Charles C. Wise Library on the downtown campus.

In addition, the Rare Book Room at the Wise Library, which contains one of the largest collections of Shakespeare’s original works, will hold an exhibition of the First Folio (also known as “Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies”)—a collection of Shakespeare’s plays published in 1623. The exhibition is curated by Stewart Plein, assistant rare books curator at WVU.

“Henry IV,” (Parts 1 and 2), is among the 36 plays in the First Folio.

During Prince Hal’s “tumultuous journey” to the throne in the WVU production of the play, audiences can expect to be dazzled by an exciting multi-level set, battle scenes in full armor, and a rollicking good time in a seedy tavern.

A major hallmark of the School of Theatre and Dance production is that some traditionally male roles have been changed to female and some actresses will be portraying male characters. For example, Falstaff is being portrayed by actress Mya Brown, who will be lampooning the iconic, jolly old character.

“It is a great honor and a challenge to portray Shakespeare’s most famous clown, Sir John Falstaff,” said Brown, who is a second-year student in the Master of Fine Arts Acting Program at WVU.

“In our adaptation of the play, it is Falstaff who guides the viewers through the story, as Prince Hal must choose between the rigorous and linear lifestyle he is destined for in the political, courtly world or the freeing and accepting world of the commoners within the tavern.”

Unique costumes for both worlds have been designed by Mary McClung, associate professor of costume design and director of the Costume Shop in the School of Theatre and Dance.

“My interpretation as the costume designer for this show led me to merge contemporary clothing with 15th century apparel and armor,” she said. “For example, I’ve created doublets, or men’s jackets of Shakespeare’s day, constructed out of modern men’s suit coats. I’ve also used t–shirts and leggings that are painted and covered with patches.

“All of this has contributed to making this production a fresh and exciting take on Shakespeare’s classic.”

Scenic design for “Henry IV” is by professor Robert Klingelhoefer and lighting and sound design is by professor Alan McEwen.

The cast also features second-year Master of Fine Arts acting students Nicholas Ryan as King Henry, and Brianne Taylor as Mistress Quickly.

Senior Bachelor of Fine Arts acting student Cody Wilson portrays Prince Hal and the rest of the cast is made up of more than 20 theatre students, making this a very grand season finale for the School of Theatre & Dance.

“Henry IV” opens in the Gladys G. Davis Theatre on Wednesday, April 16, and continues Thursday, April 17 at 7:30 p.m., as well as April 22-26 at 7:30p.m., with a closing matinee on Sunday, April 27 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for senior citizens and WVU students. There is a group rate of $10 per ticket for groups of ten or more.

Tickets are available at ticketmaster.com, the CAC or Mountainlair Box Offices, or by calling 304-293-SHOW.

For more information on this production of “Henry IV” please visit theatre.wvu.edu, call 304-293-2020, or email theatre@mail.wvu.edu.

See an ongoing blog about the WVU production of “Henry IV” at: http://ccarts.wvu.edu/theatreanddanceblog.



CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
304-293-4359, Charlene.Lattea@mail.wvu.edu

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