On preparing to direct The History Boys…
I actually studied this text first as a student. I chose to write a few response papers and one more significant paper on The History Boys, while earning my Masters in English at University of Dayton. The papers discussed the play’s handling of sexuality, teacher’s private lives vs. their roles as teachers, and issues in education. This work was two years ago and I felt so connected to the play that I hoped to direct it in the near future. Once I knew I would be directing it, I prepared by expanding my research on all of the poetry, history, and literature discussed in the play.
On what is compelling about the play…
The play is very funny, while presenting some amazing questions about our world. These tend to be my favorite types of plays. I have personal connections to education (having taught), but I feel everyone has personal connections to their own education. It is still one of those unifying experiences in a modern world where there seem to be less unifying experiences: everyone still goes to high school, for the most part.
We as citizens have some power in shaping our young people’s education. I hope audiences reflect on their own education (the good and the bad). I hope they may have discussions, debates even, about the three teachers and their outlooks and effectiveness. I hope they also appreciate Bennett’s refusal to write characters who are 100% respectable or 100% terrible … the characters live wonderfully in the grey, where I think all of us live.
About playwright Alan Bennett…
Alan Bennett is hilarious, and known as one of Britain’s best contemporary wits. His work (plays, films, television scripts, even variety shows) is often very funny with a great social bite. There is a great amount of his own history in the 8 boys in History Boys. Bennett did consider joining the Church (Scripps), he did discover his own homosexuality (Posner), he did study and was accepted to Cambridge (all of them). The scene where Hector breaks down in front of his class actually happened to him in his youth! I am currently reading Bennett’s very lengthy autobiographical work Alan Bennett: Untold Stories. It is filled with stories and reflections of his life, all told with the kind of humor and wit found in The History Boys.
On working with this cast and crew…
This cast has been a joy. They have brought so much focus and talent to the table. I am excited about the discoveries they have made along the way. Overall, I think everyone understands the spirit of The History Boys. Though it takes us through some dark waters, it is, in the end, a celebration of learning.
On favorite scene(s)…
I have a new favorite scene every rehearsal … which as a director, is very fortunate. Instead, I will kindly sidestep your question and give you some favorite lines! They reflect, not only Bennett’s glorious writing, but my talented actors work as well.
Mrs. Lintott: “Durham was very good for history, it’s where I had my first pizza. Other things, too, of course, but it’s the pizza that stands out.”
*Lintott is so wonderfully droll and she’s the master of the understatement (so British). This line lovingly reminds us that, bright as we may be, we’re still kids when we go to college, and we’re still humans looking back on our college years.
Mrs. Lintott: “These days, teachers just remember the books they discovered and loved as students and shove them on the syllabus. Then they wonder why their pupils aren’t as keen as they are. No discovery is why.”
*Another Lintott gem … and so true.
Lockwood: “Yes sir, that’s why it is a work of art in the first place. You can’t look at a Rembrandt and say ‘in other words’, can you, sir?”
*Love when the kids are teaching the teachers … happens all the time in this play.
Timms: “Somewhere on the outskirts,’ oooh. It’s not a loft, is it, sir?”
*I remember in high school being fascinated with the teachers’ private lives. I also remember as a teacher, having the kids be fascinated with my private life!
Posner: “I wanted advice, sir. Mr. Hector would just have given me a quotation.”
*Gets right to heart of the boys learning to navigate the differences in philosophies of all their teachers.
Posner: “No I’m not. Dakin writes like him. I write like Dakin.”
*Again, Bennett can get right to the heart of a matter in so few a words…this matter being the school boy crush.
As you can see, I have plenty to say about The History Boys. This experience is quite literally a dream coming true for me. I would be happy to answer anything else. My enthusiasm for this script, this cast, and our upcoming production could go on for days…