Monday, April 18, 2011

3H6 Dramaturg signing off.

Now that Henry VI has closed, I can officially sign off this blog. It has truly been a privilege to work on this show, and I look back on my work as part of the production with pride. I leave you with some final reflections on my work, and an ernest hope that any dramatugs who read this blog will find some value in its content.

Here are some reviews of my dramaturgy from the actors themselves, which I asked them to provide through an anonymous survey:

1.Well done. The videos were great, but I wouldn't suggest making that the primary source. The combination of both writing and video was very successful.

2. Excellent job in a difficult setting Your research was relevant and playable--that's an actor's dream come true

For complete survey results, follow this link:

Finally, if you would like to access my dramaturgy packet, go to this address:

This is Paul Rycik, signing off.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Henry VI Opening Night!

Dear readers.
Now that the show has successfully opened, the purpose of this blog has changed. I no longer will be chronicling the rehearsal process since I can officially bow out of my responsibilities as of now. What I will use this blog to do is to give the audience a larger sense of the play so that when you see it, you can enjoy it with the same rich understanding as the actors who have worked so hard to immerse themselves in Shakespeare's re-telling of the 15th century.

I wish to first of all say what an incredible experience this show is. After the opening performance, the audience immediately gave the actors a standing ovation and clapped long enough to warrant two encore bows.
It is easy to see why this show strikes such a chord with audience members- Henry the Sixth Part III is packed with wonderful poetry, suspenseful fights, and wonderful characters that keep the audience riveted from beginning to end. The Blackfriars Playhouse provides a wonderfully intimate experience as well, which the actors capitalize. Here, more than any theatre in the world, you can see the horrors of civil war acted out inches away from you as you watch the ambitious Yorkists strike against their Lancastrian cousins. John Harrell, Patrick Midgley and Ben Curns as the sons of York are full of insatiable energy, particularly Ben Curns as the bloodthirsty Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and future King Richard III. On the other side, Greg Phelps as King Henry is a wonderfully flawed monarch. Both childish and saintlike, he laments over his kingdom's loss like a little boy who has lost his father. I would also be remiss if I did not mention Sarah Fallon's dominating Queen Margaret, whose very presence at the start of the play inspired cheers and happy murmors from the audience. In the scene in which she kills the Duke of York, she wrenches the audience's attention and never lets it drop. Likewise Jeremy West has an incredibly moving speech as he weeps for his son's death, (whom Margaret helped to murder), moments before his own head is stuck off.

Every performance was incredibly well acted, well thought out, and delivered with the kind of intimate power that only the ASC can deliver. Likewise the music and costumes help a great deal to present the themes of civil war, and the changing of the guard. The Yorkists wear modern military costumes while the Lancastrians are in Elizabethan garb, to signify the conflict between old chivalry, and new total war. The Yorkists after all, were the first to use gunpowder in siege battles, so this choice gives Shakespeare's play a particularly poignant edge.

Another great feature is the excellent fight choreography. 11 scenes of the play take place on the battlefield and many characters die in brutal deaths. The cast, which has in it many heavily trained actor-combatants, has worked hard to make the violence as brutal as possible, while still remaining safe for the audience members who are brave enough to sit onstage.

I do not wish to give too much away, since there are plenty other surprises that I have not mentioned, but I wish to urge how magnificent a show this is. Rarely are Shakespeare's history plays produced at all, and even more rare it is to see one done by such a remarkable ensemble cast. For tickets and other information, visit their website at

Henry VI Rehearsal #1

On my first day as dramaturg, my main duties were to answer questions about pronunciation, and a few important historical details. The day started out with a read through, where I quickly realized that all the actors had a great grasp of the material, which is not surprising as most of them have played parts in both of the other Henry VI plays. At the read-through, I pointed out the correct pronunciation of "inexorable" to one actor and the word "stigmatic" to another. I also noticed that the actors playing Englishmen pronounced King Louis XI's name as Louis, while the French characters pronounced it "Loueee." The actors siezed upon this discrepancy and made a bit out of it, similar to the joke on the name of the French prince the "Dauphin" or "Do-phan" in Henry the Fifth.

After the read through, the actors started staging the play, beginning at 1.i, (which continued for the next week). One of the first questions I was asked was by Miriam Donald, playing Prince Edward, who wanted to know how old her character was. I pointed out that by the 1471, Henry and Margaret had been married for 15 years, so Edward could not be any older than that. I was later asked by Allison Glenzer about the meaning of a line in 1.i. She was playing the Duke of Exeter, who changes sides at the beginning of the play. Her all important line is in response to the Earl of Warwick, who asks Exeter if the former king Richard II was unjustly deposed. I pointed out that in Ms. Glenzer's line "No, for he could not so resign the crown," the emphasis is on the word "could," meaning Exeter believes that a monarch is incapable of giving up the crown. This helped her present the argument better. Later, she asked me about a bit of historical information. Exeter changes sides to the Duke of York in 1.i, but changes back to King Henry offstage. She wanted to know why, and why Exeter is not onstage during the parle between Edward and Henry in Act II. I did some research and realized that after joining the Yorkists, Exeter felt cheated by King Edward and rose in a revolt against him and the Earl Of Warwick. Warwick crushed the revolt and put Exeter in the tower.

After doing this research I wondered why Shakespeare did not include this story in the play. It does not appear in any other edition of Henry the Sixth, so Shakespeare must have intentionally left it out. My theory is that Shakespeare saw that Exeter's story was too much like the Earl of Warwick's, and decided to focus more on him. It is ironic that the man who captured Exeter and fought against him for Edward, would later betray the Yorkists in much the same way.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

How the Henry VI Trilogy is like the Star Wars Prequels

Blog post- How the show is like the Star Wars prequels.

In both the movies and the Henry VI plays an incompetent ruler is the source of the central conflict. Chancellor Valorum in episode 1 and Henry VI in all three plays. Chancellor Palpatine rises to power just like the Yorkists. First he declares the current ruler incompetent in Episode one, making him Chancellor. In Episode II, the Chancellor creates a galactic emergency as an excuse to create a huge army, then he corrupts a powerful warrior to get on his side, and then, when he has all the power in the universe, he declares himself Emperor and uses the military and his Sith lord to destroy the Republic.
The Yorkists operate in much the same way. In Henry the Sixth, Part II, Richard Duke of York is proclaimed protector of the Realm. Similarly in Part II, the rebellion of Jack Cade is similar to the Separatist movement that allows Chancellor Palpatine to create an uprising as an excuse to create a vast army to defeat them.
In Part III, York uses his army, along with his powerful sons to conquer the kingdom. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, like Darth Vader, is wholly committed to evil and will stop at nothing to destroy the Lancastrians. When the Duke of York dies, all three of York’s sons become consumed with desire for revenge and vow to conquer the kingdom to revenge their father. Richard, like Vader, is also deformed from his sheer hate. Although Shakespeare dramatizes Richard as being born with deformity, the Elizabethans viewed deformity as a sign of evil from birth.

In both the plays and the movies, the ambitions of individual people raise an evil empire, seeking power and revenge. Just as the Sith wished to revenge their exile from the Jedi council, the Yorkists wish to revenge the deposing of King Richard II. In addition Richard Duke of York’s seeks revenge for the Lancastrians proclaiming his father a traitor.
And like the Star Wars prequels, the worst atrocity of The Wars Of the Roses is the slaughter of children. When Clifford kills York’s 10 year old son Rutland, and when the Yorkists kill Prince Edward, it is clear that both sides have gone to the Dark Side.
The great communist writer Jan Kott described this play as a dramatization of people who manipulate the Great Machine of history, and either thrive with its help, or become ground up in it. Over the course of the evening, the audience sees the rise and fall of two noble houses, as well as a series of civil conflicts that cover England in blood. Begun this Rose War has.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Henry VI Costuming

Dear Cast,
I created this costume website for my graduate costume class, but I would like to share it with you if you would like ideas about what to pull. the website has notes on 15th century fashion, illustrations from the 1830 edition of the play, and costume notes on each class of character:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rehearsal 5

Act IV, Scene vi
Question- Is Warwick genuinely trying to be good when he joins up with Henry? Does he really not want to be protector?

There is a line where John Montgomery refers to Edward’s titles, calling him “King of England, etc.” I was asked to lookup if there is other text of Edward’s title in other editions, and how does Edward sign himself in Royal proclamations. Every other edition I have read cuts it off with “etc,” which leads me to believe that Shakespeare intended the actor to make up titles as a joke. I went through two chronicles of Edward’s life and found that he is referred to as:
➢ King of England and France,
➢ Earl of March
➢ Duke of York
➢ Lord of Ireland, Scotland and Wales

Lies and Perjury- Clarence’s defection in IV, and later in V, i.
FMI, Arden edition of 3H6, pp. 53-60
As I discuss in my dramaturgy packet, many scholars have chosen to look at this play as a series of immoral acts, most notably, the breaking of holy oaths. Samuel Johnson noted how often people in this play are punished for perjury:
I know not whether the author intended any moral instruction, but he that reads this has a striking admonition against the preciptancy by which men often use unlawful men’s to do that which a little delay would put honestly in their power. Had York staid but a few moments, he had saved his cause from the stain of perjury (Arden 55).
Perjury is a strain that runs through the entire play. Characters like Edward and Richard have no respect for oaths, while other characters try to keep them.
Other oaths in the play-
Richard swears an oath to Henry not to claim the throne, then historically he went to the Pope to have himself absolved.
Notice, Clarence isn’t there in the scene where Edward talks York out of it. I believe Clarence is the moral center of play, even though he is called “perjured and unjust.” Clarence and Warwick are idealists, this is why in Act IV, Scene v we see Warwick and Clarence selflessly giving the protectorate to each other, while in the next scene, the Yorkists deceive the Mayor of London and commit high treason.

Clarence is caught between two oaths- the oath he swore to Warwick, and King Henry, and Clarence’s natural oath of brotherhood to Edward, Richard, and his father York. Breaking either oath could lead to damnation, yet keeping his oath to Warwick means destroying loyalty to his family. Thus Shakespeare has given us in the sons of York and Henry, the full compass of moral beliefs. Richard and Henry are unprincipled opportunists, who believe in power rather than right or wrong. King Henry on the other hand is unwilling to compromise his principles and kill the men who are threatening his kingdom, which is why Henry is thought by some as a child and a madman, and as a saint by others. Clarence on the other hand is more like the audience’s avatar, a person who tries to be good, but must compromise in order to stay alive. He doesn’t want his family to be destroyed, which will happen if he stays with Warwick. In the meantime, Edward is getting more and more powerful and has captured King Henry, which might be another reason that he re-joins Edward.
IV. viii
John Harrell as Edward asked about the line: “Hoped for hay” which concludes the scene. He noted that the line is a little peculiar, so I started wondering if the word “hay” was a misprint for the word “day” that doesn’t appear in other editions. I discovered that the line is only in the Folio, so there is no other edition that says “day”
V.i I feel that the urgency comes from Warwick wondering how Edward got from Coventry to Barnet so fast.
➢ Edward’s plan was to continue going through all England, gathering troops in every town before attacking at London. Warwick
o In 4.7, He’s in York!
o In 4.8, He’s in London to capture King Henry.
o But by 5.1 he reaches Coventry, where Warwick is at the wall, 100 miles away!,+London,+UK&gl=us&ei=d8laTcOnH4WclgfBxd2ADQ&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CCMQ8gEwAA

V. ii
“Who durst smile, when Warwick bent his brows” was changed to “ Who durst mine” in the Folio.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rehearsal 3&4

Dear Cast-
Over the last few days, people have been asking me about textual variations, so I decided to provide a brief summary of the editions of the text, and some links and info to allow you to compare them for yourself. Click on the name of the edition to read it online.
The Texts

Octavo (1595) "The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York"
o 1,000 lines shorter than the Folio
o Thought to be a memorial reconstruction.
o Has many irregular breaks in the lines which are no doubt the compositor's doing.
o Discovered in the 18th century.

2nd Quarto (1600)
o Called the 2nd because it is a second edition, but there was no previous quarto, so it should technically be called 1st Quarto
o Mentions that the play was enacted by Pembroke's Men.
o More regularly lineated than the Octavo.

3rd Quarto (1619)
o Puts certain stage directions in that were not in the earlier, such as indicating where the Post enters and exits in 3.3

Folio (1623)

Textual variants between Octavo and Folio
Word variants
In the Duke of York's death scene, the Octavo renders Margaret's line "Wrath make
Spelling variants
Pembroke is spelled: "Penbrooke", Norfolk: Norfolke," Edeter, "Excester" which might indicate a colloquial pronunciation.
Major soliloquies
Rather than being a meditation on the nature of civil war, Henry's soliloquy on the molehill is a short prayer in the Octavo. He begs God to either stop the war or kill him. Instead of comparing war to sea and wind, Henry compares it to a mast less ship, as Margaret does in Act V. Henry also wishes he was either dead, or never made king, or never reigned as king. Perhaps this idea was considered dangerous as this implies kings have the option of giving their power away, which, given the uncertain political climate of Elizabethan England, was an extremely controversial idea.
Richard's soliloquy after the Lady Grey wooing scene has the same basic shape, and many of the same lines. The only major difference is that in the Octavo, several lines are absent where Richard makes the decision to usurp the crown, giving the impression that he had the idea all along. Richard summarizes his reason to desire power in the Octavo in this one line: "I am not yet looked on in the world," which suggests both Richard's chameleon-like nature, and egocentric desire for recognition.
Historical variants.
o The Octavo mistakenly mentions Lord scales being married to Lord Bonneville’s daughter, instead of Lord Rivers, Elizabeth's brother. This is probably just a mistake on Shakespeare's part, (which he corrected in later versions). However, other variants could have been by choice.
o In Act II. i of the folio, Warwick worries about his soldiers being numbered 25,000, but in the Octavo they are 48,000. Perhaps Shakespeare altered history to make the Battle of Towton more dramatic.
o In Act IV Scene ii, the Folio reads: "You that will follow me to this attempt/ Applaud the name of Henry with your leader." In the stage directions, they cry Henry. However, in the Octavo, Warwick says: “Courage my soldiers, now or never
But follow me now, and Edward shall be ours.”

In response, rather than crying “Henry,” the soldiers cry "Warwick!" Not only is this more historically accurate, it also gives the actor a chance to play the fact that, with the exception of Oxford, everyone has been working on the Yorkist side, and have little pity for Henry at all.

Henry VI: Critical Essays By Thomas A. Pendleton. Available on Google Books
"Good News about'Bad' Quartos" 'Bad' Shakespeare, ed. Maurice Charney (Cranbury,
NJ: Associated University Presses, 1988), 189-206.

Strange's Men to Pembroke's Men: 2 "Henry VI" and The First Part of the Contention by Lawrence Manley Shakespeare Quarterly
Vol. 54, No. 3 (Autumn, 2003), pp. 253-287.