Joby will be directing Smith Street Stage's production of Henry 4. The company will be performing both parts in rep this summer. Performances start July 1st.
Here is a not from SSS's website where Joby talks about the play, gender neutral casting, and the inevitability to change:
One of the things that most strikes me reading Shakespeare’s two part Henry IV is the distinct impression that one generation is on its way in, as another is on its way out. Everywhere I identify a country in transition, sometimes subtly and sometimes abruptly, but always the ground underfoot is shifting in a way that, for a multitude of reasons, reminds me of our current times. What is harder to identify, in the play and in our lives, is how these changes take root in a people’s thinking, acting and relating to one another. Usually in times of great transformation, we instinctively fight to keep our self, our values, and our ideals fixed, unbroken by the chaos of world events. The play examines the inevitability of change, and our deeply revealing struggle to try to hold firm or adapt.
The two parts of Henry IV deal with the sequence of such a transition in very different ways, and both seemed essential in wrestling with the questions of what’s gained and what’s lost. As such, Smith Street Stage will produce both parts, in repertory, on alternate evenings, with select nights featuring both plays back to back.
Another striking aspect of the drama is the recurring theme of playing roles, up to and including literal play acting. Many characters play a different role in public than in private. Others are trying, in this time of change, to redefine the function of well known roles like king, prince, knight and subject. I was drawn to the idea of a small cast with lots of doubling, manifesting the multiplicity and shifts of the play’s characters.
Teasing out this theme even further, I found an unexpected link to something that we have been trying to reconcile as a company for some time: how do we keep performing Shakespeare’s plays while granting equal opportunity to female and male actors? In the past we’ve cast across gender selectively, as well as changed the gender of some of Shakespeare’s characters (Caesar most notably). My interest was in keeping the gender of the character as written while at the same time opening up casting to an actor of a different type who might, therefore, contribute a different viewpoint.
In this production, all roles will be available to actors of either gender. As to casting Hal, Falstaff, the King, Hotspur, Mistress Quickly….“Care I for the limb, the thews, the stature, bulk, and big assemblance? Give me the spirit, Master Shallow.”
Lastly, there’s a very telling point in the play when news of rebellion reaches the tavern, guaranteeing imminent war and countless deaths. When faced with the news, Hal and Falstaff stage a play extempore. Faced with uncertainty, they cope through play, through storytelling, through the arts. This July, amidst our own changing times, Smith Street Stage will do the same.
See you in Carroll Park.