The Boar’s Head

category: full length one act
genre: tragicomedy/Shakespeare mash-up
running time: ninety minutes
setting: in and around the Boar’s Head Tavern in London
period: Elizabethan England

characters:
Henry, King of England
Hal, his son
Ned Poins, friend to Hal
Sir John Falstaff, tutor to Hal
Bardolph, his henchman
Hostess, the keeper of the Boar’s Head Tavern
Alice, a barmaid
Doll Tearsheet, a prostitute
Pistol, a thief
Katherine, a beautiful maiden of France

story:
Alice, a barmaid, tells us a tale of Hal, song of a King, and his friendship with Sir John Falstaff, a knight who was his tutor and companion in the years before he went to war and later inherited the crown of England. Rebelling against a strict and serious father, Hal and John embrace a life of drinking and carousing with the lower classes of England, including the impoverished aristocrat, Poins, the prostitute Doll Tearsheet, and the thieves Pistol and Bardolph. Also slumming in the bar is a French woman of means, Katherine, with whom Hal begins a romance despite leading a war against her homeland. In the wake of his father’s death, Hal becomes King and rejects his old life and friends, including Falstaff, who expected to be made rich through his connections to the prince. Leaving the bar forever, Hal marries Katharine and becomes the man his father always dreamed he’d be.

author’s comments:
This script was developed for the Café Royale in San Francisco as an atmospheric staging of key scenes from Henry IV 1 & 2, and Henry V, arranged so as to tell a coherent coming of age tale, but sans the various intrigues and politics of those longer works, while introducing us to new ways of seeing the characters, though still using Shakespeare’s language. Somewhere between an adaptation and a re-envisioning, I hesitated to put my name on the byline of this piece until the director, Jessica Richards, got me to realize I had, for all intents and purposes, re-written the play, placing more focus on Hal and his relationships but also tweaking those relationships to tell a story of a rich boy slumming and a rebellious youth coming to an end (as all rebellious youths eventually do). My end goal had been to create a more universal history, one anyone in our audience might be able to place themselves in, and along with that effort came the creation of Alice, our narrator and Katherine’s confident, cobbled together from the chorus of Henry V, and two smaller characters from the play- Francis the Vinter and Alice the handmaiden. As a cast-member of the original production (I played Poins), I have to say there was something truly amazing about the show and it remains one of my favorite pieces, one I feel can and should be staged again in a variety of ways and places. We did ours in modern times, but any time period where men have been torn between desire and duty will do, and if the show can bring the audience onto the stage (or the stage into the audience), I suspect that it will make for an even better evening. Regardless, I have come to accept that this “collaboration” with Shakespeare is part of my own repertoire, now, and a rewarding and welcome addition it is.

Productions:

Me as Ned Poins in the SF Theater Pub production.
Me as Ned Poins in the SF Theater Pub production.

San Francisco Theater Pub, May 16, 17, 23, 30 and 31, 2011, at the Cafe Royale in San Francisco, California. Directed by Jessica Richards; Stage Managed by Carrie Lynn Barnes; Artwork by Cody Rishell. Cast: Bennett Fisher (Hal), Paul Jennings (Falstaff), Ted Barker (King Henry), Tonyanna Borkovi (Alice), Stuart Bousel (Ned Poins), Larissa Archer (Katherine), Trish Tillman (Hostess Quickly), Nick Dickson (Pistol), Derek Fisher (Bardolph), Sarah Kate Anderson (Doll Tearsheet)

Ben Fisher and Ted Barker in the SF Theater Pub production.
Ben Fisher and Ted Barker in the SF Theater Pub production.

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