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‘Henry IV, Part I’ rolls westward

Susan Frank, ’Doah Staff Writer
February 20, 2013

'Doah photo by Caroline Madden

‘Doah photo by Caroline Madden

William Shakespeare’s historical play of “Henry IV, Part 1” premiered this past weekend and had students, parents, faculty and staff all raving. This particular production took a new approach to the story by adjusting the time period and adding in modern-day music.

Much of “Henry IV, Part 1” revolves around King Henry IV’s son and heir, the Prince of Wales. Prince Henry, or “Hal,” is unwilling to live up to his royal duties and refuses his right to the crown of England. Hal proves to be an embarrassment to his father, as he spends most of his time in taverns and bars stealing, being drunk and spending quality time with prostitutes.

Student assistant director and musical theatre major Kirsten Salpini commented, “The young prince isn’t interested in his title, he prefers and likes to hang out with badass folks.”

However, all of that changes when civil war breaks out, inspiring Hal to return to his father, take responsibility and fight for his country. “This is a real coming-of-age story with the young prince, and in the end of the play we really see that he is going to be the next king and assume responsibility,” said Salpini.

Setting this production apart from other versions, the story was not set in the historically accurate period of 15th-century Europe, but drew influences from the American Old West. The costumes were given a certain ambiguity, so as to create an atmosphere of the play existing in no specific place or time. According to Salpini, there was an emphasis placed on periods where immigrants were prominent and there was an air of political unrest to play off of the civil war described in the story.

One of the incredible things about this show that truly captivated the audience was the addition of music to the traditional production. The main musical influence was that of the popular band Mumford and Sons. A live band of S.U. musicians performed to add effects to the various tavern scenes, as well as during intermission and transitions within the show.

One commendable accomplishment for this show is that it was done with essentially no budget. The costumes were often clothes that belonged to the actors, and the set was built by the cast and crew. Salpini said the style of the set was very minimalistic, requiring the actors to get very creative in their performances.

This was Salpini’s first time fulfilling the role of student assistant director and she says she greatly enjoyed it. “It was cool to work with Carolyn [Coulson-Grigsby]. I had acted in her plays during my years here, but this was new and more like partner/assistant, which was totally different. We were a good match because Carolyn is a visual director who sees things in broad strokes with a strong grasp on the whole picture, and I see things in more detail.”

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