Prince Hal, Hotspur and Falstaff were a huge hit with New York City students who got a chance to see Shakespeare’s Henry IV.
In the fall, teachers at the 26 schools taking part received study guides put together by Kati Koerner, the director of education at Lincoln Center Theater, to help them prepare their students for what they would see onstage. For weeks, the students read over and acted out scenes from the play in class, discussed their meaning and relevance to 21st-century urban life, and learned the historical context not only of the rise of the House of Lancaster in the early 15th century but also of Shakespeare’s England.
Would all this preparation pay off when the students finally saw the play in a live performance?
For the cast, and at least one adult theatergoer among them, the students were a joy. Certainly they were not the usual Wednesday matinee crowd. They hooted, cheered, hissed and roared with laughter. They were probably closer to an Elizabethan audience at the Globe than anything the actors at the Vivian Beaumont Theater had ever faced. It was, in the language of the theater, a great house.
The students loved the sex jokes and the fight scenes. While boys rooted for Prince Hal, the girls went for Hotspur. Everybody loved Falstaff.