by Anne Flinders, dramaturg and Katrina Forsythe, Henry 5 Collaborator
In a traditional theatre production, one of the first things that happens when a script is chosen is that the director will choose a theme for the production. This theme will influence almost every decision made from then on, like which parts of the script to cut and which to keep, costume and lighting decisions, and set design. Last week in a BYU theatre class, something very different happened.
Every year, BYU presents a Shakespeare production for children that will tour to local elementary schools. This year we’ll be performing Henry 5, the story of the English King Henry 5 who defeated the French at Agincourt. Since these pieces are performed for children, they always require a lot of creativity to make sure the children understand what is going on. This year, the Contemporary Performance Practices class, mostly made up of graduating seniors, is collaborating on that process. First, we all had to read the play from beginning to end. Then, the class was divided into five groups—one for each Act—and asked to decide what we thought the theme should be.
Some of the ideas included:
- Listen to your inner voice; consequences for not listening to your own conscience.
- The ends justify the means; sometimes you have to do bad things in order to achieve great things.
- Different people have to come together to work for something good.
- Stand by what you believe in even when other people don’t agree with you.
The class voted on what theme we thought would be the most effective for elementary schools. The theme has to be appropriate for children, and we all agreed that it should be a positive, inspirational message. What do you think it should be?