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Shakespeare’s words made authentic by dramaturg in ‘Making of a King’

Adam Versenyi is the Dramaturg for the Making of the King Production which opens this Saturday (February 4). "We've put together Shakespear's Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 into a single evening, which will play in repertoire with Henry V," said Adam.

After years of experimenting in every aspect in theatre, Adam Versenyi decided to focus on informing rather than performing.

In PlayMakers Repertory Company’s “The Making of a King” — featuring Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” and “Henry V” in rotating repertory — Versenyi acts as the production’s dramaturg, teaching the actors and directors how to make Shakespeare’s words authentic in the 21st century.

“Each person’s path to becoming a dramaturg is different,” said Versenyi, who started acting at the age of 9. “I thought I was going to be a performer.”

But meager earnings and strong recommendations from peers pushed him toward dramaturgy.

“What I’m trying to do is help other people do their best work,” he said.

Versenyi researches the settings in which the plays were written and in which the plays take place. He gathers material to inspire the performance passionately and accurately.

“He is able to bring so much research into the room,” said Joseph Haj, co-director of the plays. “He would bring me book after book and article after article of material he thought I should know.”

Haj said Versenyi found information that highlighted the political and social structures of 15th-century England, when a civil war plagued the country.

“All that research is useful exactly to the degree that it ignites imagination,” Haj said.

Jeffrey Cornell, who plays Henry IV, said Versenyi’s guidance helped him grasp the war’s pressure on his character.

“There was a lot of guilt there that he helped me understand,” Cornell said.

Versenyi said he posted pictures of the story’s physical environment to give the actors context.

“What I’ll bring into the rehearsal hall is as much material to feed the creative juices of the actors,” he said.

Versenyi also helped the two directors — Haj and Mike Donahue — to ensure they were on the correct path.

Before rehearsals, he worked closely with the directors to determine the best ways to execute the plays.

Haj and Donahue then worked with the cast separately during the day and brought their work together in the evening. Versenyi would watch and give feedback.

“He was able to be another set of eyes on the work, guiding us to do the strongest work we could,” Haj said.

And for the adapted story line of “The Making of a King” — which shows Prince Hal’s trajectory to becoming King Henry V — the team had to veer away from the original text of “Henry IV” to focus on the king’s life.

“I’m looking for material that’s both scholarly, but at the same time speaks to the particular theme that we want to treat,” Versenyi said.

Cornell said Versenyi’s guidance is a valuable resource.

“It does help you constantly dig in the right direction so you won’t stray away from the story that we want to tell.”

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