Fayetteville, NC – Fayetteville is the home of the largest military installation in the world, Fort Bragg, comprised approximately of 50,000 active-duty personnel and 4,000 families. Because of this, a large majority of Cape Fear Regional Theatre’s audiences have been impacted by war at some level, whether as an active military member, military family member, or as a friend, neighbor, or colleague of a military family.
Their production of Henry V provided military and civilian audiences, including students, an opportunity to explore the “why” of war including the mercy and cruelty, heroism and cowardice, and moral responsibility of war through the lens of Shakespeare in a strikingly human way. The production used Word War II-era elements in the costuming and set design, provided context and community engagement opportunities-including the town of Fayetteville’s own “Heroes Homecoming”, a Veteran’s Day celebration.
North Carolina students read plays by William Shakespeare in 9th, 10th, and 12th grades. However, they often share feelings of disconnect until it is read aloud or performed on stage. Cape Fear Regional Theatre sent actors to local schools before the production, as part of their Artist-On-The-Go program. Study guide materials and post-show discussions were available to schools, with a large percentage choosing to participate. Of teachers surveyed by the Theatre, 90% reported their students were “very engaged” in Henry V. One teacher wrote, “This is vital for studying the English language; the theater is the soul of language arts.” Several students responded that they were grateful for their pre-show curriculum as it helped them enjoy and appreciate the performance. Students wrote, “I understand now why Shakespeare is supposed to be performed in an intimate setting;” “It helped me understand our class work;” and “I get Shakespeare now!”
“For the entire artistic team and staff, some of our favorite moments were watching the students who were so actively engaged throughout the performances. In the beginning of the play, actors often sat among audience members and students were thrilled to find out they were sitting next to one of the actors once their character came into play. During fight scenes, students were literally leaning forward in their seats. And during the scene where King Henry was wooing Princess Kate, students cheered him along! The energy in the theater at each student matinee was truly captivating.”
-Cape Fear Regional Theatre.