Briarcliff High School to Present Henry IV

Zach Hoyer and Violet Young

Briarcliff students and community members are going to be in for a treat, and perhaps a little shock, when they see Briarcliff High School’s fall drama, Henry IV.

The show is a punk-rock version of the original Shakespearean play and takes place in the style of 1970s London.

“It’s going to be a lot of black leather, chains…it’s a very quick, very fun, high-energy, ‘ferocious in-your-face’ Shakespeare-type of play,” said Director Paul Kite.

The play is completely original, with Kite meshing together two plays.

“I mixed two plays together – a previous collaborator of mine wrote a play called “Thieves,” based on Henry IV, but it only includes the thieves in the play,” he said. “He updated and modernized it and cut out a lot of material, but I put a lot of it back in to add more roles. I essentially married it together with the original Shakespearean play.”

According to Kite, the text is modern so it will be easy to understand.

“We will not be doing English accents,” he said.

Although there are only ten students in the play, most of them have double roles.

“There are also about 15 students doing tech, which is great,” Kite said. “And we will also have a band in the beginning, during intermission and at the ending of the show, playing cover songs from bands such as Sex Pistols and The Clash. We also hired a fight choreographer for the sword-fighting scenes.”

The two main roles are played by seniors Zach Hoyer, as Prince Hal, and Violet Young, as Hotspur.

“Hotspur is a crazy military gal, and she is trying to overthrow the king,” Violet said.

According to Zach, his character has many problems of his own.

“There are a lot of relationship dynamics with Hal, because he hangs out with the punk crowd, but he is going to be king soon and his dad tells him to get his act together,” Zach said. “He is internally conflicted, and with the pressure of Hotspur and the invasion and war, there’s a lot of internal and external conflict that he is trying to deal with.”

“There’s a lot of power dynamics too,” Violet said. “I struggle with that a lot, because in the show my character is always flying off the handle. In the beginning, I am apologizing to the king, but I’m also driven to overthrow him.”

In the beginning of rehearsals, Zach was not sure if he would like the punk rock theme, but he eventually warmed up to it.

“I think it’s a very good way to modernize it and contextualize it to the late 20th century, so it will give the play a more modern feeling,” he said. “And it also helps give purpose to a lot of the characters: the idea of who these punks are – they are bandits – and it’s a counter-culture that will interact better with a modern audience.”

Both Violet and Zach have been acting for years, including during the pandemic. They don’t plan to study theater in college, but they are grateful for the tools they have received while performing in school plays.

“I plan to study something more business-oriented, but I’m always going to have a creative side to me that I can bring to the table,” Violet said.

“It’s definitely a good thing to have in your back pocket, especially in terms of musical talent, I think it’s really important. Also acting-wise – you can be a good public speaker, it’s a very valuable skill. Even if you are not majoring in theater, being in theater in high school is a very good thing,” Zach said.

Both students acknowledge Kite’s role in the shows.

“He calls being in these roles as going through a journey,” Violet said. “And I noticed that his directing tactics are geared towards individual ability.”

“He is very good at letting creative aspirations and ideas blossom,” Zach said. “I think he has helped me become a better actor in the way he runs things – it allowed us to really connect with the characters and do what we wanted with them.”

This attitude of giving students freedom has really put its mark on the play.

“What people often do with Shakespeare is try to find a place to set it. I’m teaching the students to have fun with it and mess it up,” Kite said. “The original Shakespearean plays were written for the masses and I just want the students to make it fun and make the audience care about the characters. This will definitely not be a quiet night of Shakespeare.”


Here is the description of the show, which is rated PG-13:


Briarcliff’s version of HENRY IV originally written by William Shakespeare has been updated with an irreverent punk rock vibe. Contemporary dialogue mashed up with Shakespearean text help the students bring this tale of rebellion, power, honor, and family to thrilling life.


The shameless Sir John Falstaff, the black sheep Prince Hal, and the rebellious Hotspur navigate the shifting sands of allegiance in King Henry IV’s England.  With his crown under threat, the King prepares for war. But the Prince parties in taverns with thieves and punks. Honor is at stake for both commoners and kings, as rebellion and duty collide in Shakespeare’s richly layered coming-of-age tale.


The performances will take place at the following times:

  • Friday November 18 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday November 19 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday November 20 at 2:30 p.m.

All tickets are $15 and can be purchased at For questions about tickets, please contact



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