The Old Globe and USD Shiley Graduate Theatre Program always has new and exciting ways to bring Shakespeare and the program’s talented performers to the San Diego stage. This year is no different from their production of HENRY IV. Playing November 12th – 19th this epic tale of history, family, and honor, directed by M.F.A. Director Jesse Perez, brings the characters into the 21st century with a modern and intimate portrayal. Bernadette Sefic makes their program performance debut as Falstaff with a new approach to an established character. Sefic talks about the approach to the show, their character, and why Shakespeare is eternally adaptable and relevant.
This year’s production, HENRY IV brings an intimate and modern production to the unique stage of the Globe’s open, and large rehearsal studio. With a small company of 12 performers, Sefic says the intimacy and minimalist approach to the show heightens the connection and the storytelling between the audience and the performers.
“I feel like it’s the storytelling of connection in a lot of ways because we didn’t have the ability to be immersed in something together at the same time for so long.
Everything about this show is intimate; the cast is small, we’re in a small space together, and all of the beautiful tech elements, the lighting is gorgeous but minimal, the sound is really sensual in an intimate way that reverberates in your bones. Melanie Chen Cole, our sound designer crafted these beats that get you really hyped in a way that’s both modern and timeless.”
Since Falstaff is normally portrayed as an older man, Sefic found the challenge of finding different themes and ways to connect to the character and make him relevant to this time and portrayal a really satisfying experience.
“In this intimate story, I was very interested in what is it like to have my body, my very queer, twenty-seven-year-old body in space as Falstaff? To me, that showcased a lot of new themes in trying to figure out how this story was told as me and not as something I wasn’t. Which was really delicious.
Falstaff’s tavern in so many ways is this beautiful, queer- as in other or alternate – space of bacchanal. Shakespeare does this amazing thing where the court is in verse and a specific meter, and every time Falstaff speaks, even when he’s in court spaces he speaks in prose with no specific beat and it is really free-flowing. Which was a really interesting way of showing Falstaff living outside of other people’s definitions.
I really like this bacchanal space where time and family and love all look different. I might not be the classic pseudo dad to Hal, but I as Falstaff can be a dad/mentor/family figure that he has found alternate to the court. I think we have crafted a really beautiful version of that and all of the clowns have crafted a really beautiful community of “found family” that has rung really true to me.”
To many Falstaff can be seen as cold or angry, and someone who is not averse to lying. Bernadette says that they see it another way, Falstaff just really loves to tell a good story to an appreciative audience.
“Falstaff loves hanging out with the guys, and telling stories with this found family and he’s found a lot of power in it. He doesn’t have a lot of power in the outside world and society, but he has power in the tavern, Then he gets pulled out of the tavern and what does that mean, and how does he react?”
Bernadette says that joining this program for a challenging growth opportunity is exactly what they were looking for coming out of quarantine. That the program has a focus on Shakespeare, one enduring love of Bernadette’s, and highlights the resilience and accessibility of Shakespeare’s work was another irresistible draw.
“We keep coming back to Shakespeare because I genuinely think that it has the ability to do the work that I am the most interested in doing; which is 1) queer and 2) accessible.
I mean in the current cultural definition of gender and sexually queer – both its accessibility and its queerness are rooted in where it came from and because it’s so old. In Shakespeare’s time, gender confusion wasn’t just the main theme but also how it was produced; with a bunch of dudes playing women who were playing dudes playing women.
No one is being precious with his stuff and you can really craft it to tell what you want. I’ve been so thrilled coming to grad school to hone that narrative and work with Jesse who has a lot of tools that I am looking to incorporate into my own work. He is so good at looking at ‘what does Shakespeare mean to us right now in real-time? Where does Shakespeare sit on my body and in my voice?’
I’m really thankful to have that narrative in my education and I’m hoping that’s where the future of where Shakespeare is going.”
For Bernadette, this production of HENRY IV taps into all of those wonderful modern themes while telling a really fun and entertaining story.
“This production is looking at how minimally we can get this story across, and it’s been an absolute playground in terms of these people, this production, and this text which is so playful – the dude makes a lot of bawdy jokes.”
How To Get Tickets
You can see Bernadette Sefic and the cast of HENRY IV from November 12th to the 19th for eight performances only. Tickets are on sale at www.theoldglobe.org.
All patrons who attend the performance are required tower masks for the entire duration inside the theatre while attending, as well as provide proof of Covid vaccination or provide negative results of a Covid-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of entering the theatre.
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