From Henry IV, courtesy of ISC's Facebook page.

The following is a republished press release … to submit community announcements to The Voice, contact us at jstein@ithacavoice.com.

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The 21st Century Library Campaign — Tompkins County Public Library

May 4, 2015 (Ithaca, NY) – This July, the Ithaca Shakespeare Company will present the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays in his own time alongside his most popular play today.

Henry IV is the second production in ISC’s series of Shakespeare’s history plays, which began with Richard II at the Hangar Theatre in February.

In Richard II, Henry Bolingbroke deposed and murdered King Richard and took the throne for himself. Now, in Henry IV, he must deal with the consequences of his actions: his feelings of guilt over killing his kinsman, the rebellions that break out against his rule across the country, and his troubled relationship with his own son.

From Henry IV, courtesy of ISC’s Facebook page.
From Henry IV, courtesy of ISC’s Facebook page.

Henry IV, Part One was the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays in his own time, largely due to the appeal of Falstaff.

“It’s such an incredibly entertaining play,” says Artistic Director Stephen Ponton. “It’s got everything in it: there’s the rowdy, boisterous comedy of Falstaff and the tavern world, there’s the big battle sequence between King Henry and the rebels, there’s the father-son dynamic between Prince Hal and King Henry, and there’s the overall coming-of-age story of Prince Hal – who will go on to become one of the most beloved English kings, Henry V, in the next play. It was such a hit in Shakespeare’s time that it generated multiple sequels and spin-offs.”

This production will blend material from Henry IV, Part One and Part Two into a single play.

Henry IV will be presented in rotating repertory this summer with a new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, easily the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays in the modern world.

“It’s a play we’ve done several times before at Plantations,” says Ponton, “but it’s so brilliantly written that it never gets old, no matter how many times you’ve seen it or performed it. And we always try to put a new spin on the characters and the staging. Only two actors will be reprising their roles from previous productions. The rest will be new, and we’re looking forward to making the fairies even more mischievous and emphasizing their interactions with the human world to a greater degree.”

The productions will be performed on alternating nights on a single stage in the Newman Arboretum at Cornell Plantations.

This summer’s production of Henry IV is the second production in ISC’s two-year cycle of Shakespeare’s English history plays. Shakespeare wrote ten plays on English history, of which eight form a continuous narrative sequence.

ISC is combining and condensing these eight plays into a series of five productions, one for each king in the sequence. The series will continue with Henry V at the Hangar in February 2016, Henry VI at Cornell Plantations in July 2016, and Richard III at the Hangar in the fall of 2016.

“I think this will be one of the most exciting things we’ve ever done,” says Ponton. “The history plays are my favorites of all of Shakespeare’s works, and collectively I think they are his single greatest achievement. These are absolutely not dry, dusty history lessons. They’re the original Game of Thrones – wild, exciting plays that chronicle almost 100 years of violent conflict for the English throne. They’re full of life and variety and contain the greatest comic character Shakespeare ever created in Falstaff, one of his most powerful female roles in Queen Margaret, and some of the most thrilling staging he ever imagined.”

Each production in this series will be connected to the ones before and after it through introductions and linking scenes, so that they form a single continuous narrative. “We’re approaching it kind of like a movie franchise,” says Ponton. “We hope people will be able to experience the whole sequence, so we’re working hard to tie the stories together and make them clear. So don’t worry if you’re not familiar with these plays or have found them confusing in the past – we’ll make sure everyone understands who these characters are and what they’re fighting for.”

The history sequence is being offered as part of ISC’s 3-year celebration of Shakespearean Milestones, in commemoration of the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth in 2014 and the 400th anniversary of his death in 2016.

Henry IV will be performed July 9, 11, 17, 19, 23, and 25, 2015. A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed July 10, 12, 16, 18, 24, and 26, 2015. All shows begin at 6 pm in Jackson Grove, in the F.R. Newman Arboretum at Cornell Plantations.

Tickets are available now. Prices range from $10-25, and both general admission and reserved seating is available. For more information and to purchase tickets online, visit the Ithaca Shakespeare Company’s website at www.ithacashakespeare.org.


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.