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SUNY Drama stages Henry IV

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NEW PALTZ -- Images available at sits on the verge of civil war as William Shakespeare's Henry IV begins, but it is the lives of those caught up in the conflict-and not the politics-that take center stage in the upcoming SUNY New Paltz production of Henry IV. Invested with liberal doses of comedy, intrigue, stage combat, romance and music, Henry IV is one of Shakespeare's most enjoyable plays. It is presented in Parker Theatre by the Department of Theatre Arts, and the production runs November 1-11. Henry IV tells the story of four former allies of King Henry IV conspiring and waging a war against the King from the fringes of his realm - Wales, Scotland, and Northern England. Meanwhile, the King's young reluctant heir-apparent, Prince Hal, and his roguish surrogate father Sir John Falstaff carouse through the seedy taverns of London's underworld.

In order to capture the complete dramatic arc of the story, the director of the New Paltz production, Stanton Davis, has adapted the text of Henry IV to include scenes from both Henry IV, Parts I and II, and one scene from Richard II. "This will tell the story of King Henry and it also serves to put the relationship of Henry, his son, and the rebels into a context," Davis said. "I believe this completes the entire story and really establishes the whole dramatic arc - from King Henry's questionable rise to power, to his family and political troubles, to his deathbed reconciliation with his son Prince Hal."

"Henry IV first appeared on stage in 1597 and it is a huge leap from the earlier History Plays such as King John and the Henry 6th series [written 1589-1591]," Davis continued. "Although Henry 6th is chronologically later, Shakespeare wrote it earlier in his career. It still has intrigue, but it is more like a family drama, and in that way it plays like King Lear. It is a more mature playwright who wrote Henry IV than the earlier plays."

Shakespeare scholar Gareth Lloyd Evans says "Henry IV encompass two worlds-the world of kingship and ceremony, and the natural world. The connecting link is Prince Hal; he has dealings with both, and it is what the one world teaches him that enables him finally to take up his habitation in the other. In each world he is confronted with a living example of kingship - his own father, and his 'adopted' father, Falstaff, emperor of the natural. Both 'kings' have a kingdom to bequeath - the one the realm of England, the other, a realm of knowledge and experience. Both kings perish so that Hal may come into his own kingdom..."

The character of Sir John Falstaff is indeed one of the most famous comic characters in English literature. Appearing in four of Shakespeare's plays, the portly and indulgent knight eludes attempts to confine him in too narrow an interpretation. He is at once a "villainous abominable misleader of youth," and the "sweet, kind, true and valiant Jack Falstaff." Davis' decision to include scenes from Henry IV, Part II was, in part, because it contained some of the better comic scenes, and helped to complete the story of Falstaff and Prince Hal. That includes Falstaff's fall from grace, and Prince Hal's eventual banishment of his surrogate father figure.

Music plays an important role in this production of Henry IV. Shakespeare intended music to be an important element in his plays, especially in those that were long on spectacle. Under the musical direction of Stephen Kitsakos, dramatic underscoring, liturgical chants, pub songs and rounds, and traditional folk songs are incorporated into the production. "The play is set in a more abstract historical period, clearly non-Elizabethan. The music selected is somewhat a mixture of the medieval and the modern" Kitsakos said.

Henry IV is performed in November 1- 3 and 8-10 at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays, November 4 and 11 at 2pm. It is presented in Parker Theatre on the SUNY New Paltz campus. Tickets are $12 adults, $10 senior citizens. Tickets are available by calling the Parker Box Office, 845-257-3880. Box office hours are Monday - Friday, 10am - 4pm. Tickets may be purchased over the phone with VISA or MasterCard.

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Editors: Images are available online at, or by calling David Cavallaro, 257-3872, or via email.