“All things are ready, if our minds be so.”
This Shakespearean epic follows a charismatic warrior King and his cohort through the brutality of warfare, as the ragtag band confronts heavy opposition and their own destinies in an aggressive pursuit of the French crown. Henry V is a deeply ambivalent play about leadership, and the power of language and storytelling to shape our collective identity. The play’s central question – What kind of leadership would it take to forge a resilience and unified band of brothers and sisters from a fractious and anxious group of individuals? – resonates with fresh urgency in our contemporary world.
HENRY V begins at the English court, where the young king is persuaded that he has a claim to the throne of France. When the French dauphin, or heir apparent, insults him by sending him tennis balls, Henry launches his military expedition to France.
Before departing, Henry learns that three of his nobles have betrayed him, and he orders their execution. Meanwhile, his old tavern companions grieve over Sir John Falstaff’s death, and then leave for France.
Henry and his army lay siege to the French town of Harfleur, which surrenders. The Princess of France, Katherine, starts to learn English, but the French nobles are sure of success against Henry. Instead, Henry’s forces win a great victory at Agincourt.
After a brief return to England, Henry comes back to France to claim his rights and to set up his marriage to Princess Katherine. The play’s epilogue points out that Henry will die young and that England will as a result lose most of his French territories.
Summary Courtesy of Folger Shakespeare Library.
Cast & Creative
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Davis McCallum
King Henry Emily Ota*
Archbishop of Canterbury, The King of France, Erpingham Duane Boutté*
Cambridge, Bedford Timothy Bright CC
Nym, Constable, Williams Carl Howell*
Gloucester, Orleans Lennon Xin Wen Hu CC
French Ambassador, Court, York Phoebe Lloyd CC
Montjoy, Hostess Quickly, Jamy Melissa Mahoney*
Chorus, Boy Sean McNall*
Bardolph, Bates, Salisbury Francis Pàce-Nuñez CC
Pistol, Bourbon Luis Quintero*
Exeter, Le Fer, Falstaff Kurt Rhoads*
King Henry Understudy Antoinette Robinson*
Grey, Governor of Harfleur, Queen of France Mayadevi Ross CC
Westmoreland, Gower, Princess Katherine Omar Shafiuzzaman*
Scroop, Dauphin, Macmorris Stephen Michael Spencer*
Ely, Fluellen, Alice Nance Williamson*
Costume Designer Anya Klepikov
Props Designer Buffy Cardoza
Sound Designer, Composer Fitz Patton
Scenic Advisor Sandra Goldmark
Lighting Designer Mike Inwood
Movement Director Susannah Millonzi
Voice Coach Alithea Phillips
Stage Manager Jo Fernandez*
Q&A with the Director
Get to know this Shakespearean epic through a Q&A with our very own Artistic Director and Director of the play, Davis McCallum.
💬 So, you’re directing Shakespeare’s HENRY V, can you tell us a little bit more about the play and what inspired you to choose (and direct) it?
Yes, of course. It’s one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. People often think only of the famous speeches, but it is absolutely brilliant in its ambivalent construction. It’s wildly open to different interpretations. At the center of the play is the somewhat opaque but charismatic figure of King Henry. Very unusually for Shakespeare, it’s not until very late in the play that we get to find out what’s really going on with him. He decides to embark on a military campaign in France, and things get worse and worse, until something miraculous happens, which is the victory at Agincourt. And any good production of the play has to answer the question of what makes that miracle possible, and it has something to do with the relationship between this disparate group of individuals, and how they are brought into a unified whole. That felt like a relevant question in today’s fractured and anxious America.
💬 To you, what is the play really about? Can you talk about the theme of leadership in the play?
My strong contention is that it’s only a play about war on the surface. The deep heart of the play is about leadership, and about performance (especially as an aspect of leadership), and the ways in which the right words, set in the right order and given breath with intelligence and imagination and passion, have the power to change the world. Consider the way Ukrainian resistance and international engagement was galvanized by Zelensky saying something as simple and powerful as, “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.”
💬 What makes the play a good fit for HVSF and our Tent and our audience?
Picture Shakespeare when he wrote the play in 1599. Aged 35. The resident playwright at the leading theater company in London, with a brand-new theater on the Southbank to fill. And as the culmination of his four-play Henriad, he sets himself the impossible task of staging England’s unmatchable moment of military glory, the Battle of Agincourt, with its cavalry and archers and crush of tens of thousands of men? And he comes up with the most brilliant and cheeky solution – “It’s not about us. It’s about YOU.” The performance, says the opening Chorus, is defined by what’s created between the audience and the actors. It’s the secret sauce of all the best theater under the HVSF tent. We say to the audience, “You have to jump in and participate and imagine it with us”; “Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts.” That’s the secret motto of the production: we’re all in this together.
For the reason, our production of HENRY V will be performed in the round, with an added bank of audience seats upstage under the arch of the Tent, and a cast of 15 playing multiple parts. The cast is stocked with HVSF veterans, folks who have internalized the unique energy of the Tent from many seasons playing alongside Kurt Rhoads and Nance Williamson and others. They know how to play, and this production will be nothing if not playful. I can’t wait to dig in and share it with all of you.
💬 Can you talk about Emily Ota’s role as King Henry?
I decided to produce the play because of my excitement at imagining Emily as King Henry. Emily Ota is a singular talent who began her professional career at HVSF as a member of the Conservatory Company in 2015, and she has grown into one of the most accomplished American Shakespearean actors of her generation. Audiences will recognize Emily from our 2022 season, she played the prince in ROMEO & JULIET and Maria in MR. BURNS.
We were excited about an approach that highlights both the character’s flaws AND his strengths as a leader, and Emily really embodies the idea of using language to inspire and motivate. When it comes to the way gender works in the play, we’re not changing the gender of the character and we’re not trying to fool anyone into thinking that the actor playing King Henry is a man. We’re just doing the play, and asking every member of the team and the cast – including Emily – to bring all of their lived experience to embodying the story in the most personal and meaningful way. I know it’ll allow us to find new and surprising moments that will illuminate the play in a thrilling way.
Q & A
How long is the show?
This production, including a 10-minute intermission, runs approximately 2 hours, 45 minutes (7:30pm – 10:15pm).
Is this show appropriate for children?
We encourage families to bring kids to HVSF. Henry V does deal with themes of war. While the production features battle scenes, they are not graphic. Although every family’s tolerance for grown-up themes is different, we believe this production is appropriate for older children. Little ones under 5 are not permitted under the tent.
Please be sure to review your performance dates and seat locations before finalizing your order below. Ready to book more dates? Back to Calendar.
🪑 Section 400: Don’t miss out on the chance to be among the first to experience HENRY V’s theater in the round! Our new circular arrangement puts you right in the heart of the action, with section 400 offering an up-close and intimate view of the performance.
But be warned, these seats are not for the faint of heart. As part of the immersive experience, they are fully exposed to the elements, adding an extra layer of excitement to your theatrical adventure. So pack your poncho and get ready to fully engage with the drama of the show, rain or shine!