Wooden O

Bluff Your Way Through the Play: Henry IV

Bluff you way through Henry IV

History Retold…and Modified
Shakespeare relied heavily on The Union of the Two Illustrious Families of Lancaster and York, a history of England’s kings from Richard II to Henry VIII written in the mid-1500s, to build the plot of Henry IV.

The Dering Manuscript
Did you know that the oldest known manuscript of Shakespeare’s work is an abridged script of Henry IV Part I and Henry IV Part II? The document was discovered in 1844 from the private library of the late Sir Edward Dering. This condensed version combined Part I from a 1613 publication and Part II from a 1600 publication. Dering revised the manuscript for an amateur performance with friends sometime between 1622 and 1624. This is also the first known amateur performance of a Shakespeare play!

Larger than Life
Falstaff is one of the most beloved personalities that Shakespeare created. The character was originally named Sir John Oldcastle. The historic Oldcastle had been a supporter and friend of Henry V, but eventually became central to a conspiracy that intended to capture the royal family and install Oldcastle as Regent. No wonder Shakespeare felt okay making jokes at his expense! All this messy history was mortifying for the current Lord Chamberlain (the office in charge of theater censorship) who was a descendant of Sir John Oldcastle! After a big fuss, the character’s name was changed to Falstaff. Fortunately for Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth was so tickled by Falstaff’s character that she requested to see a third play showing the old, fat knight in love. “The Merry Wives of Windsor” was written specifically for this request. Befitting the ultimate roguish ego, there have been 3 separate operas written about Falstaff.

Ow! That had to hurt!
Prince Hal was only 16 years old at the Battle of Shrewsbury. During the fight, the young royal was shot in the face by an arrow that had to be removed by a physician. The wound left a permanent scar. Hotspur was also shot in the face by an arrow during the battle, though, unlike the prince, Hotspur’s wound was fatal.

A Rose by Any Other Color
Henry IV Part I is the second installation in a tetralogy (four part series) by Shakespeare that chronicles the early years of the War of the Roses. In Richard II, Henry Bolingbroke becomes king by taking the throne from his cousin Richard. This upset in the succession of the crown pits the House of Lancaster (represented by the red rose) against the House of York (represented by the white rose). Henry IV picks up the story three years after the events of Richard II and shares a lot of the same characters.

Keeping Up with the Percys
The competition in reputation (and on the battlefield) between the wayward Prince Hal and accomplished Henry “Hotspur” Percy gets a lot of stage time in Henry IV. King Henry, laments that his rival, Northumberland “should be the father to so blest a son” while disparaging his own inadequate heir. Hal himself betrays some unease when he jokingly portrays Hotspur as an insatiable overachiever. For centuries Hotspur (along with Sir Falstaff) even monopolized the hearts of audiences and actors alike, it wasn’t until the 20th century that Hal started really getting attention as a star of the show. When Hotspur and Hal meet in battle, it’s clear that their rivalry must end, “Think not, Percy / To share with me in glory any more.”

The Boys’ Club
This summer’s sister show, As You Like It, boasts the female character with the most lines in the Bard’s canon. Henry IV, on the other hand, is definitely a boys club with less than 4% of the lines spoken by female characters, making it second only to Timon of Athens for least female lines in Shakespeare’s works. Lady Mortimer doesn’t even have any written lines!

So…what’s the story?
Henry Bolingbroke has taken the crown from his cousin King Richard II and faces uprisings in Scotland and Wales. The Scots are defeated by Henry Percy, known as Hotspur, son of Northumberland. After the battle, Hotspur refuses to hand over his prisoners. He insists his brother in-law, Mortimer, who has been taken prisoner by the Welsh, must be ransomed. King Henry refuses. He fears that Mortimer, who was named King Richard II’s successor, might lay claim to the throne. The Percy family changes sides and plots a rebellion against Henry, who unfavorably compares his own irresponsible son, Prince Hal, to the valiant young Hotspur.

During a riotous escapade with Sir John Falstaff and his disreputable friends at the Boar’s Head tavern, Hal is summoned to help lead the royal forces against the rebellion.

Mortimer, Hotspur, and the Welsh prince, Glendower, plan to divide England among themselves. Just before the battle, Hotspur’s father and Glendower withdraw from the fight. Henry offers the rebels a pardon if they will disband, and Hal offers to fight Hotspur in single combat. Neither offer reaches Hotspur who sees no choice but to fight. During the battle, Hal kills Hotspur and also saves his own father’s life. Henry is victorious and dispatches troops to fight Northumberland, while he and Prince Hal depart for Wales to destroy Glendower and Mortimer’s supporters.

Adapted from Shakespeare Genealogies by Vanessa James

Character Lowdown
King Henry IV, King of England (formerly Henry Bolingbroke)
Prince Hal, son of the King and Prince of Wales
John Lancaster, son of the King, younger brother of Prince Hal
Westmoreland, an ally of the King
Blunt, an ally of the King
Northumberland, a former ally of the King who rebels, father of Hotspur
Hotspur, son of Northumberland, husband of Lady Percy
Lady Percy, sister of Mortimer, wife of Hotspur
Worcester, brother of Northumberland, uncle of Hotspur
Vernon, a relative and ally of Worcester
Glendower, father of Lady Mortimer, leader of the Welsh rebels
Mortimer, a Welsh rebel, brother of Lady Percy, husband of Lady Mortimer
Lady Mortimer, daughter of Glendower, wife of Mortimer
Douglas, leader of the Scottish rebels
Falstaff, a friend of Prince Hal
Poins, a friend of Falstaff and Prince Hal
Bardolph, a friend of Falstaff and Prince Hal
Peto, a friend of Falstaff and Prince Hal
Mistress Quickly, a tavern hostess in Eastcheap
Gadshill, a thief and friend of Falstaff and Prince Hal

You Heard It Here First
Shakespeare has given us words and phrases that we use every day, but before he made them up they didn’t exist. Below are some familiar phrases and words that first hit the English language scene with Henry IV. Listen closely in the play to see if you can catch them all.

The better part of valor is discretion
The game is afoot
Give the devil his due
Send packing
Stony hearted
Set my teeth on edge
Tell truth and shame the devil

to dwindle
to forward
to misquote
to outdare
skim milk
upstairs (first use as adjective)

Want to find out more? Check out Coined by Shakespeare by Jeffrey McQuain and Stanley Malless for an in-depth study and fun exploration of Shakespeare’s creative wordplay.

Bluff Your Way Through the Play: As You Like It


As You Like It Bluff

Original Story?…Mmm, kinda.
Shakespeare borrowed from Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynde to create As You Like It. In Lodge’s story, the ladies leave the court and have to face outlaws, rape, and the threat of incest.  Shakespeare altered the plot and renamed some of the characters.

It Takes Two, Baby
The world of the court and the world of the forest have very different vibes. Shakespeare plays with duality in this play in several ways: Two dukes, two brothers, the duality of Rosalind being a woman but disguised as a man, all the various love pairings that emerge in the story.

The Newlywed Game
(Spoiler Alert!) Eight characters get married by the end of As You Like It. Eight! That’s the most in any of Shakespeare’s plays. And nobody dies during the play, but they come close.

All the World’s a Stage
One of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches, the Seven Ages of Man, appears in As You Like It and is spoken by the character of Jacques. It’s interesting that Shakespeare’s other famous speech, To be or not to be, from Hamlet was written during roughly the same time period.

That’s a lot of words
The character of Rosalind has 685 lines in As You Like It. That 25% of the total lines in the play. It’s the largest female role in all of Shakespeare’s plays.

Sing a Song
As You Like It gets the runner up award for the most songs in any Shakespeare play. (The Tempest has more, but they often get cut). Our production has added original songs and updated some of Shakespeare’s for this production.

So…what’s the story?
Oliver is jealous of his popular brother, Orlando, who has challenged Charles the Wrestler to a fight. Oliver urges Charles to kill Orlando during the match.

Rosalind and Celia are the daughters of a pair of sisters, Duke Senior and his usurper, Duke Frederick. The daughters are best friends, and, for Celia’s sake, Frederick has kept Rosalind at court.

Orlando wins the fight, and he and Rosalind fall in love. Frederick banishes Rosalind, and Celia plans to escape with her. Rosalind disguises herself as Celia’s brother, and, along with the Duke’s clown, Touchstone, they head into the forest of Arden, where Duke Senior and his friends are living happily as outlaws. Orlando, warned that he is in danger, also heads to the forest and joins the outlaws.

Rosalind and Orlando meet, but he mistakes her for a boy. She encourages him to woo her as if she were Rosalind so that she can put his true feelings to the test.

Oliver is sent by Frederick to retrieve Orlando. He is attacked by a lion, and Orlando saves him but is badly injured. Oliver brings Orlando help, and they are reconciled. Oliver is introduced to Celia, and they fall in love. Her “brother” promises to produce Rosalind if Duke Senior will let her marry Orlando. He agrees, and Rosalind reveals her true identity. Duke Frederick has a miraculous religious conversion and becomes a hermit.

Adapted from Shakespeare Genealogies by Vanessa James

Character Lowdown
Duke Senior, deposed and living in banishment in the forest of Arden
Rosalind, daughter of Duke Senior, later disguised as a boy
Amiens and Jacques, Lords attending Duchess Senior
Duke Frederick, Duke Senior’s sibling and the usurper
Celia, Duke Frederick’s daughter and Rosalind’s companion, later disguised
Le Beau, a courtier
Charles, a wrestler
Touchstone, a clown in Duke Frederick’s court
Oliver, the eldest son of Sir Rowland de Bois
Orlando, the youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys
Adam, an old servant of Sir Rowland de Boys
Dennis, Oliver’s servant
Corin, a shepherd
Silvius, a shepherd
Phoebe, a shepherdess
William, a country boy
Audrey, a goatherd
Sir Oliver Martext, a clergyman
Jaques de Boys, son of Sir Rowland de Bois

You Heard It Here First
Shakespeare has given us words and phrases that we use every day, but before he made them up they didn’t exist. Below are some familiar phrases and words that first hit the English language scene with As You Like It. Listen closely in the play to see if you can catch them all.

In a better world than this
Forever and a day
Laid on with a trowel
Neither rhyme nor reason
Working-day world

to cater

Want to find out more? Check out Coined by Shakespeare by Jeffrey McQuain and Stanley Malless for an in-depth study and fun exploration of Shakespeare’s creative wordplay.

Creating Summer Magic


Rehearsals for Wooden O summer 2015 began this week as the companies for As You Like It and Henry IV part 1 gathered together for a potluck dinner and to hear design presentations. Below is a transcript of Artist Director George Mount’s welcome to the company.

I don’t care what the calendar says…today’s the first day of summer!

Look outside, it’s so hot!  And Wooden O begins today.  For us now and in about a month’s time, we will unleash ourselves on the unsuspecting parks across the Seattle and Puget Sound region.  Bringing, to my mind, and I think I’m not alone in this conception, the best free Shakespeare theatre anyone can experience in this state, and perhaps west of the Rocky Mountains, and maybe this great United States of ours.  And you guys are what make that happen!

This day for me is a day that fraught with emotion, and it means the world to me.  I was having lunch with a friend earlier today and talking about loyalty…and trust and commitment to people who mean something to you. And when you give that trust over to other human beings and they reciprocate that trust, it’s the foundation for growth and expression. And what is generated by that giving of trust and the accepting of trust…that is what Wooden O is about for me.  It’s been over twenty years of me trusting people like Crystal Munkers, like Heather Hawkins, like Craig Wollam, Kelly Kitchens, and Hana Lass and Brenda Joyner, and Victoria McNaughton. From twenty years past to two to three years past.  Giving and receiving trust is what we do as performing artists. We are a collaborative art form. And if we cannot trust each other and share in that trust and create within that trust, then we got nothing.

And I trust and love each and every one of you for being part of that journey. And I thank you for signing up.  I again think we’ll have a great summer. Past performance is no guarantee of future dividends and they say in the stock market advertisements. But I believe in what we do and I believe in each and every one of you.  And you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t believe in what we’re doing.

When you know how the trick is done and you still believe it…that’s magic. That’s what we do for Wooden O.

And what we’re doing is bringing free performing arts to our community. And what does that entail? And what does that mean? What that means is that there are a lot of people out there who don’t go to theatre. You’re going to share your art form with them this summer.  They just don’t go. They can’t afford it. They live too far away. They think it’s too high brow. So we’re going to go and do that.  We’re going to help them bridge that gap. So while we’re bridging that gap from a dead playwright from 400 years ago, we’re also going to bridge that gap for people in Tacoma, and Shoreline, and SeaTac, and Lynnwood. And they’re going to get to experience. They’re going to bridge that gap. That’s the continuum that we live in. That’s who we are.  It also means, for the people who will be performing those shows that you will have to show up a little extra early, in a van, and unload a set, set up some costumes and tents. And be asked to make your preshow warm the exercise of setting up speakers. And doing your fight call in front of people who are already audience members. It means changing costumes in a tent that everyone can see. They’re not going to see you changing costumes, but they can see that tent where you’re changing.

It also means that if you need to get around to behind the house to do an audience entrance that they’re going to see you doing that. But there’s theatre magic. And it doesn’t have to have a theatre to make theatre magic. And what Wooden O has capitalized on in the 22+ years that we’ve been doing it, is that whatever happens outside of that sacred space that we define, whether it’s already defined in the Luther Burbank Amphitheater monoliths, or your stage management team taping it out with architecture tape and spikes; you define that space and that’s magic space. And the moment you cross that threshold, the audience will buy whatever you’re selling them…because you believe in it. And that’s real theatrical magic. When you know how the trick is done and you still believe it…that’s magic. That’s what we do for Wooden O.

So you’re going to have some scrappy times and you’re going to have some joyful times. And that’s part of the magic.

Casting News: Wooden O 2015

Wooden O Casting News

We’re thrilled to announce our casting for this summer’s free Wooden O productions of Henry IV part 1 and As You Like It which start performances on Thursday, July 9. Lots of favorite artists from past Seattle Shakespeare Company productions will be in the parks this summer.

Artistic Director George Mount will stage Henry IV part 1. This is the first time we’ve presented this play in the parks. The production features David Anthony Lewis as King Henry, Conner Neddersen as his son Prince Hal, and Tim Hyland as Falstaff. Lewis was in our recent production of Measure for Measure and is currently in Othello.  Neddersen played Valentine in The Two Gentlemen of Verona last summer and Feste in our recent production of Twelfth Night. Hyland returns to SSC after directing the Wooden O production of Macbeth (2011) and appearing as Fluellen in Henry V (2010).

Actress and director Annie Lareau directs As You Like It. Lareau recently staged our touring productions of Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, and appeared in the Wooden O productions of Richard III (2009) and Henry V (2013). As You Like It features Brenda Joyner as Rosalind, Jason Sanford as Orlando, Hana Lass as Celia, Kelly Kitchens as Jacques, and Heather Hawkins as both Duchess sisters. Joyner last appeared on our stage in Much Ado About Nothing and Richard II. Jason Sanford played the King of Navarre in Love’s Labour’s Lost and was part of our spring tour in 2013 in Othello and Romeo and Juliet. Hana Lass recently played Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest, and Kelly Kitchens played Kate in The Taming of the Shrew (2013 and Wooden O 2009). Heather Hawkins appeared in last summer’s all-female Julius Caesar as Calpurnia.

The Henry IV part 1 full cast includes: David Anthony Lewis (King Henry), Conner Neddersen (Prince Hal), Tim Hyland (Falstaff), Michael Patten (Vernon/Northumberland), Joe Ngo (Hotspur), Nikki Visel (Westmoreland), Kate Witt (Mistress Quickly/Worcester), Brandon Felker (Bardolph/Glendower), Matt Gilbert (Mortimer/Poins), Lorenzo Roberts (Blunt), Tom Miller Dewey (Peto/Douglass), Michael Dreger (Prince John), and Jessica Keily (Lady Percy).

The As You Like It full cast includes: Brenda Joyner (Rosalind), Jason Sanford (Orlando), Hana Lass (Celia), Heather Hawkins (Duchess Senior and Duchess Fredricka), Brian Simmons (Touchstone), Kelly Kitchens (Jacques), Maya Sugarman (Phebe), Kate Jaeger (Audrey), Spencer Hamp (Silvius), Amy Fleetwood (Corin), Evan Whitfield (Oliver), Eric Ray Anderson (Adam), Sean Patrick Taylor (Le Beau/Amiens), and Duncan Weinland (William).