Culture Club: A Perfect Theatrical Pairing

Door Shakespeare begins season of The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry V

by Michael Stebbins

Michael Stebbins, Door Shakespeare’s producing artistic director, recently sat down with Henry V director, Matt Daniels, and The Merry Wives of Windsor director, Marcella Kearns, to talk about what the two plays share with one another.

Michael Stebbins (MS): Door Shakespeare’s Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor, running from June 19 to Aug. 24, make for an intriguing pairing, and I hope that people will come to see both, as there are compelling reasons to do so.

Some people think that The Merry Wives of Windsor is a comedy and Henry V is a history play, so they couldn’t possibly be connected. I think it’s really interesting how closely they actually are connected. There is a lot in the way of crossover, if you will.

Matt Daniels

Matt Daniels (MD): Well, although Henry V is a history play, it has plenty of comedy to go around! I think the biggest connection is Sir John Falstaff (played by Door Shakespeare favorite Mark Corkins), who was one of Henry’s closest friends back before he became king. Henry (played by Eric Schabla, late of American Players Theatre, making his Door Shakespeare debut) cuts Falstaff out of his life at the end of Henry IV, Part II. Henry V deals with some of that aftermath as Falstaff’s friends are drafted to fight for Henry, and he has to deal with his old life colliding with the new one. Falstaff himself doesn’t appear in Henry V, though his presence is keenly felt in a few scenes because many of his companions in The Merry Wives of Windsor do find their way into Henry V.

All of Falstaff’s companions in The Merry Wives of Windsor are drafted into service for Henry’s war against the French (in Henry V). So Bardolph (newcomer Jarrod Langwinski), Nym (newcomer Ken Miller), and Pistol (Michael Herold in his Door Shakespeare debut) are all there, along with Robin, Falstaff’s page (returning actor and musician Luke Brotherhood), and Mistress Quickly (Carrie Hitchcock, treading our boards for the third time). Several earls and dukes cross over between plays as they were still historically active in multiple reigns. In the case of Falstaff and his companions, these characters are not really historically accurate, and as such, Shakespeare was free to do with them as he pleased.  

Beyond that, there are several thematic resonances, as they both have Welsh and French characters, and there is evidence that they were written within a couple of years of one another.

Marcella Kearns

Marcella Kearns (MK): Regarding those thematic resonances: Some of the most striking include what it means to come together as a people with differences for a common purpose, the boon of friendship and love, and tenacity in the face of great odds.

MS: Door Shakespeare is visiting Henry V for the first time, which we are very excited about, and The Merry Wives of Windsor last graced our stage in 2004. We’ve brought together an exciting company this summer, including professional actors who have performed at Shakespeare festivals and on regional stages across the country, as well as Wisconsin upper peninsula favorites Dan Klarer and Amy Ensign, Door Shakespeare’s managing director. Door Shakespeare actor, composer and music director, Scott McKenna Campbell, is also back for his third season. We pride ourselves on our commitment to hiring artists based in the Midwest.

Marcella and Matt, thank you for chatting, and for guiding these plays to the Door Shakespeare stage. I hope that audiences will come out to see both!

Performances of The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry V take place at Björklunden, 8097 Boynton Lane, Baileys Harbor. For a complete schedule and tickets, call 920.839.1500 or visit

Peninsula Arts and Humanities Alliance, Inc., which contributes Culture Club throughout the summer season, is a coalition of nonprofit organizations whose purpose is to enhance, promote and advocate the arts, humanities and natural sciences in Door County.


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