King Henry the Sixth, Part Two

Directed by Jerry Marco

October 13, 2007 at 1:00 PM

The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend

Kesh Baggan
Keiri Beth
as SALISBURY / Stafford's brother
Monisha Chowdhary
as Duchess / Clerk of Chatham / Saye
Yun Kyung Chung
Stephanie Diaz
Margaret Ying Drake
as Petitioner 2 / Spirit / One (Townsman) / Neighbor 1 / Herald / Commons / Master / Rebel 1 / Messenger 2 / Citizen 1
Philippe Garcesto
as BUCKINGHAM / Neighbor 2 / Southwell / Beadle / Prentice 2 / Mate / Rebel 3 / Gough / Messenger / Soldier / Edward
Jason Kendall
Catherine Leong
as CARDINAL / Neighbor 3
Lawrence Lesher
Derick Locus
as Peter / Bolingbroke / Mayor / Servant / Vaux / Gentleman 1 / Rebel 2 / Messenger 1 / Richard
James McKnight
as Horner / Hum / Simcox / Stanley / Murderer 1 / Whitmore / Butcher / Scales / Iden
Amy Lee Pearsall
as Petitioner 1 / Jordayne / Simcox' Wife / Prentice 1 / Sheriff / Post / Murderer 2 / Lieutenant (Captain) / Weaver / Young Clifford
Adia Tucker
as SOMERSET / Prentice 3 / Gentleman 2
Aaron Walker
as SUFFOLK / Stafford / CLIFFORD
Jerry Marco

Sixty Eight Characters, Sixteen Actors, Three Rehearsals. What Am I? Nuts?

I'll just come out and admit it now: Henry VI Part 2 is a monster of a play. And yet, we know this work from early in his career was one of Shakespeare's most popular. It was acted frequently in the early 1590s, when troupes consisted of 8 to 12 permanent members, who hired a few more actors whenever they needed to. We know plays were acted with a minimum of props, scenery, and especially, a minimum of rehearsal time. And we know the "two hours traffic of the stage" was a fairly accurate description of the length of performances. Maybe I am nuts, but be that as it may, I know Shakespeare Saturdays can pull this one off.

The number of characters seems daunting, but it becomes less so when you see there are only about eight who have a continuous presence throughout the play, corresponding well to what we know about the size of Elizabethan troupes. It becomes easier still once you realize most of the rest show up in distinct episodes: the Trial by Combat; the Conjuration; the False Miracle; Jack Cade's Rebellion; and so on. And certainly not coincidental, is the fact that most of those episodes have just five characters. There are smaller roles and supernumeraries, of course, and one awkward scene in which nineteen characters appear - but you know what? In that 19-character scene, five characters from one episode are brought in at the beginning, then dismissed; then later, five characters from another episode enter! Shakespeare meant them all to be played by the same people.

In building a casting chart with sixteen actors, I have taken advantage of the great variation of length and difficulty of the roles, to construct opportunities for performers of all levels of skill and experience. The actors playing the King, Queen, Duke of York, and Earl of Warwick will play no other roles. If, as I hope, we find an actor with considerable training, experience and skill, who is capable of doubling as both Duke Humphrey and Jack Cade, it will be a great challenge for him. But opportunities to display virtuosity will also abound for the 'Gang of Five,' as I think of them; the corps handling the episodic characters. Those actors will play nine and ten characters each - and remember, Shakespeare's characters are always finely delineated. Playing the King will be a great experience for someone, but the Gang of Five can be no slouches. Making the treasonous Horner, the slippery Simcox, the avaricious Hum, the gallantly murderous Whitmore, the gore-infatuated Butcher, and the well-contented Esquire Iden come alive will also be a stretch target for somebody.

Three rehearsals are all we have (and that's 50% more than most Shakespeare Saturdays performances get). Here's how it will work. On Saturday the 6th of October, we will read through the play together, gain a common understanding, and work on character interpretations. On Monday the 8th, we will devote the whole time to staging the many moments where the visual will be just as important as the verbal. And on Wednesday the 10th, we will put all the pieces together, the reading, the staging, and we will do it FAST. We only have two and a quarter hours in the space, and we must get through the whole thing in that period. We don't want our friends and relations sitting for hours on the 13th, wondering when we will be finished. Remember, in 1591, the great majority of the audience stood the whole time. The two hours traffic of the stage must be just that, and it will be.

Sixty eight characters? You betcha!

Sixteen actors? Bwoohah!

Three rehearsals? Vvvrrrrrooooooooommmmmmm!

And am I nuts? Well, I guess we'll find out on the 13th.

Jerry Marco

Character Description and Breakdown

DUKE HUMPHREY: Lord Protector of the realm until forced to give up that position by the machinations of the Queen, Duke Humphrey is next in line for the throne. The only character whose motivations are purely for the good of king and country, he is nonetheless accused on trumped up charges of treason, and murdered by the conspiracy on the night before his trial. Duke Humphrey is the best of the best.

Cade: Set on to lead a rebellion by Richard Duke of York, Jack Cade assumes a false pedigree and leads the commons in an uprising with the aim of installing himself as king. In that position, he plans to rule by decree, keep food and drink prices low, make all goods common property, sleep with every bride on her wedding night, and kill anyone who can read and write. His followers are extremely violent, and succeed in making the king and queen take refuge at a remote castle, before they are pursuaded to turn their loyalties back to Henry VI in return for a general amnesty. Starving and alone, he provokes a duel in which he is killed. Jack Cade is the worst of the worst.

Salisbury is the voice of reason and moderation in the play. Slow to be convinced, slow to devote his support, once he makes his choice, it is irrevocable. Father to Warwick.

Duchess: Wife to Duke Humphrey, the Lord Protector, the Duchess presses her husband to depose the weak king and assume power himself. When he rejects this, she turns to witchcraft, and ends up banished.
Clerk of Chatham: Minor official and scribe in a provincial town, the Clerk of Chatham is brought up on charges of being able to read and write, and is condemned to death by Jack Cade.
Lord Saye: Powerful official in London, well acquianted with the king. Among Lord Saye's duties is overseeing tax collection, making him hated by the commons. Refusing to flee with the king and queen, on the grounds that his presence would increase their danger, he hides in London, but is eventually found out by Jack Cade's troops. Has a long trial sequence, albeit at a kangaroo court, where even Cade is moved, but he is condemned anyway, and his head carried on a spike through the streets, at each intersection made to "kiss" the severed head of his brother in law.

Loyal as his father Salisbury, Warwick is younger and more passionate, but quicker to see the truth. A formidable supporter of York, he is the mover and shaker behind much of the action. Later called "Kingmaker" (in part 3), for his vast political influence.

A French woman from a noble yet modest background, she has married King Henry VI as part of a political settlement of the war between England and France, in return for which the English have given up their conquests of Anjou and Maine, and have agreed to an 18 month cease fire. Margaret is ambitious and powerful, and wants to establish herself as the real power in England, successfully conspiring to cause the King's uncle's, the Lord Protector's, death. Enormously frustrated by the King's lack of action, she at the same time sets out to protect him at all costs, because she knows without her marriage, her power will disappear. Openly, but discretely, in love with Suffolk.

Spirit: Cruelly summoned from the underworld to foretell the future.
One: Lives to proclaim miracles.
Commons: When things get tough, he is spokesperson for the common people.
Rebel 1: Major instigator in Jack Cade's rebellion.

Buckingham: Loyalist to King Henry, Buckingham is vaguely aware of the plot against Duke Humphrey. He is ambitious to take over as Lord Protector himself, but never stands a chance among the predators at court.
Southwell: Reads the magic incantation which raises the Spirit in the Conjuration.
Beadle: miraculously cures Simcox of lameness, using his (not so)-Magic Whip.
Edward: son to York, later becomes Edward IV (in Part 3).

Deeply religious, he occasionally displays great strength and decisiveness. Unconditionally accepts fate. Intrinsically motivated, with an idea that destiny is in control. Feels great guilt because intellectually he knows he could have acted to change the outcome.

Great-uncle to Henry VI, Cardinal Beaufort is the bastard son of John of Gaunt, and lives up to that pedigree. Deeply resentful of others' power, he is the arch-enemy of his nephew, the Lord Protector, Duke Humphrey. A principal in the conspiracy against the good Duke, he quickly succumbs to York's prophesy, and dies of guilt for the murder, unredeemed for that and for all of his other crimes; the sinful priest; the hell-destined prelate; the Condemned Cardinal.

Claimant to the throne via superior pedigree, York bides his time to take over England; ultimately failing in body, he succeeds through his sons, Edward (later Edward IV), and Richard (later Richard III). Granted the one thing he lacks, an army, he sets Jack Cade on to lead a rebellion, to test the readiness of the Commons to follow a new leader. Conspirator in the assassination of Duke Humphrey, he is subject to his own, and the Spirit's (dissembling) prophesy, but survives this play, only to fall early in Part 3.

Peter: an apprentice armorer, Peter reports his master, Horner, for treasonously saying York is the legitimate King of England, and proves his point by winning the Trial by Combat.
Bolingbroke: the Wizard (or perhaps only Stage Manager?) in the Conjuration.
Mayor: completely taken in by the False Miracle, the Mayor is only too happy to proclaim yet another when Simcox is cured of lameness by a Beadle with a Whip.
Vaux: brings the news of the Cardinal's illness and impending death.
Rebel 2: one of the instigators in Jack Cade's Rebellion.
Richard: son to York, later becomes King Richard III (a couple of history plays downstream).

Butcher: The right-hand-man during Cade's Rebellion. In keeping with his trade he takes glory in gore. He has a great sense of humor, but a violent nature and vast cynicism.
Horner: Armorer who denies having told his apprentice that Richard Duke of York is actually the legitimate king, an act of treason. Undergoes trial by combat, in which he is killed by his apprentice, thereby proving his guilt to all.
Simcox: Charlatan who travels from town to town, pretending to be blind and lame, so he can be miraculously healed. He happens to be plying this trade in St. Albans on a day when the king and courtiers are present and is quickly found out by them.

Jourdayne: the witch who extracts information from the Spirit in the Conjuration.
Simcox's Wife: co-con-artist, she may have driven her husband to his life of crime.
Sheriff: responsible for making sure the Duchess is wholly humiliated during her three-days penance.
Murderer 2: suffers a bout of remorse.
Lieutenant (Captain): commander of a pirate ship, the Lieutenant is fully aware of all the goings-on in France and at court, and heartily disapproves.
Smith the Weaver: major mover and shaker in Jack Cade's rebellion.
Young Clifford: indefatigable supporter of the king, he swears terrible revenge for the killing of his father - violently fulfilled in Part 3.

York's arch-nemesis, Somerset supports the king's cause mostly because York doesn't. A semi-insider in the conspiracy to kill Duke Humphrey, he is ambitious to take over the role of Lord Protector. He eventually succumbs to the fate prophesied by York and (dissemblingly) in more detail by the Spirit, to die before a castle.

A consummate player of power politics, Suffolk will say and do anything to advance his own cause. He is having an affair with the queen, through whom he hopes to become the power behind the power behind the throne. Amoral, he has a vast emotional range: love; lust; terror; pride; ambition; anger. A conspirator in the murder of Duke Humphrey, he eventually succumbs to the fate prophesied by York and (dissemblingly) in more detail by the Spirit, to die by water.

MoonBeam.Net productions, in conjunction with the New York Public Library presents Shakespeare Saturdays, A Free Reading Series Celebrating the Diversity of Upper Manhattan.

Executive Producer and Resident Composer: Donna Kendall Stearns

Artistic Director: Jason Kendall

Made possible by the generous support of
The New York Public Library

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