Kingman High School Drama Club takes on King Henry IV tonight
KINGMAN - If you want a Shakespearean history lesson as performed by high school students, then get yourself to the Kingman High school tonight for the opening of King Henry IV.
One of Shakespeare's most famous plays, King Henry IV tells the story of two Harrys.
There is Harry "Hotspur" Percy - one of England's most famous warriors - who is leading a rebellion against King Henry, is a natural leader and has a problem with his temper.
Then there is Prince Harry, son of King Henry, who spends much of his time in taverns partying with lowlifes, much to the chagrin of his father.
The play's director, KHS physics teacher Tom Jennings, said auditions were held right after Thanksgiving. Once the 40-student cast was set, students started rehearsing 2-3 hours a night.
"It takes a gigantic level of commitment from the students," Jennings said. "This is an exceptional group."
Jennings, who has been directing plays at KHS since 1989, said he tried to stay away from large casts in the past because many students would drop from the cast once they realized how much work putting on a play entails. However, interest and commitment levels have risen in the last few years and kids aren't giving up so easily, he said. For instance, the cast has only lost one student since rehearsal for the production started in late November, early December.
Competition plays a roll in retention as well because students are auditioning for the next play every single time they rehearse this play, he said.
The cast faced several challenges over the last couple of months. First, they had to learn how to speak and express in the language of Shakespeare, which is no easy task. To assist them, Jennings simplified portions of the play in order to help them learn the language enough so that when they say their lines the audience can understand. Most of his simplification consisted of paring some of the play's speeches. Next, students were responsible for coming up with costumes that fit the period. Lastly, the cast learned how to best coordinate the scene changes, which happen every 5-10 minutes.
"Everybody (in the cast) plays a big role in the performance," he said. "They are kept busy the whole play."
King Henry IV consists of two parts. Jennings took the most important scenes from the two parts and combined them in order to do both of the play's parts without asking the audience to sit there for seven hours.
The play is set in England in 1413. King Henry, who deposed his cousin Richard II for the crown, is taking part in the early stages of what would later be known as "The Wars of the Roses."
King Henry wants to unite England and lead a crusade to Jerusalem, but he faces battles on his borders, as northern noblemen lead by "Hotspur" hope to usurp his crown. The crux of the story comes down to King Henry's need for Prince Harry, the party animal, to grow up and help his father fight off the rebellion.
By uniting dramatic devices of comedy and tragedy with the power of history, the play is able to explore the effects of war throughout all levels of society. The war-affected stories of the tavern folk and the nobility meet up when the two Harrys face off during the Battle of Shrewsbury.
Jennings wanted to make it known that the play features mild violence and a few on-stage deaths. These are not graphic scenes, Jennings said, but he doesn't want people to be surprised when they occur.
King Henry IV shows at 7 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday in the KHS auditorium, 4182 Bank St. The price of admission is $5 for adults, $4 for students and $3 for students with renaissance cards. The money raised helps pay for the KHS Drama Club's next performance, "Singing in the Rain."