Shakespeare at Winedale

A rare fix of 'VI' – 'Henry's three parts in one day

Derek Dahmann as the Duke of York plotting his next move in <i>Henry VI, Part 2</i>
Derek Dahmann as the Duke of York plotting his next move in Henry VI, Part 2 (Photo courtesy of Mark Metts)

Some Shakespeare plays come around as regularly as a city bus. Miss that most recent production of A Midsummer Night's Dream or Romeo and Juliet? Not to worry. Another will be along next season or maybe even later this one. Others, though, almost never pass our way. Anyone ever seen Timon of Athens in this neck of the woods? How about King John? Henry VIII? These are the canon's poor relations, looked down on by almost everyone and with whom no one wants to be seen. Keeping company with this neglected lot is Henry VI, about the son and heir of Henry V (who's still quite well-liked). Alas, things didn't go as well for Harry 6 as for his pop, in either life or the Bard's collected works. With the former, he lost England's hold on France, and the whole nasty War of the Roses business was started (see also Richard III). The latter has more to do with Henry VI being among Shakespeare's earliest work – written by a Will still in his mid-20s, it's believed – and the unlucky king's saga being stretched out over three plays. While a trilogy might warm the heart of Hollywood, it's more than most modern theatres can comfortably undertake.

So having Henry VI show up for Shakespeare at Winedale this summer and last has been a bit of a surprise. But James Loehlin, who directs the program in the University of Texas Department of English, believes this trio of histories is underrated. "These are really wonderful plays," he says, in part because they're among the Bard's first dramas. "They show the young Shakespeare's growing rhetorical mastery and comic vitality, and they feature his first great villain, Richard Gloucester, the future Richard III. They present a rich tapestry of medieval England as a vibrant and varied society that is torn apart by civil war."

Loehlin's faith in the plays was borne out in the 2010 production of Part 1, which offered a fast-paced, tension-filled account of a two-front war: the external one with France and the internal one within the English court. Here is both a memorable hero in the valiant warrior Talbot, who fights alongside his son in a heart-wrenching scene of filial love and sacrifice, and a memorable villain in Joan of Arc. (Come on, how often do you see St. Joan played as a scheming, diabolical sorceress of the dark arts?) He has his student players finishing out the trilogy with full performances of Part 2 and Part 3 this summer (in repertory with productions of Hamlet and As You Like It), but this Sunday, he's presenting the complete trilogy in one day. At 10:30am, the class will present a staged reading of Part 1, with a brunch buffet. That will be followed by a matinee performance of Part 2 at 2pm and an evening performance of Part 3 at 7:30pm. You can see all three for just $20, $15 for students. Sure, it's a 90-minute drive out to Winedale, but it's all three parts of Henry VI. That bus ain't coming around again anytime soon.

But if a trip to the Theatre Barn isn't in the cards for Sunday, you can wait another week and the Winedalers will bring two of the three plays to you. As part of this summer class' post-Winedale tour – which includes stops at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary in Dallas and the American Shakespeare Center's Blackfriars stage in Staunton, Va., to perform some of this year's productions – the class will perform the plays in the Black Box Theatre of UT's new Student Activities Center next to Gregory Gym on the UT campus.

Henry VI, Parts 1, 2, and 3 will be performed Sunday, Aug. 7, at 10:30am, 2pm, and 7:30pm, respectively, in the Theatre Barn of the Winedale Historical Center.

Henry VI, Parts 2 and 3 will be performed Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 15-16, 7:30pm, at the SAC Black Box Theatre on the UT campus.

For more information on either set of performances, call 471-4726 or visit

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Shakespeare at Winedale, James Loehlin

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