The History Boys
, which won the 2005 Olivier Award for Best New Play and the 2006 Tony Award for Best Play, is an entertaining and erudite work set at a boys' school in Northern England in the 1980s that poses fundamental questions about education which resonate strongly in twenty-first century America: Should the primary goal of education be to prepare students to ace their exams - that is, should teachers "teach to the test?" Or should schools be more concerned with imparting a love of learning, of developing students eager to pursue knowledge?
Hector is an unconventional teacher whose mission is to open the minds of his pupils. As the Headmaster puts it, he is "not curriculum-directed at all." But there's a newcomer who is; a young, cynical teacher named Irwin who trains the students to prepare to face the examiners at Cambridge and Oxford.
"It is hard to fathom any other theater in the area tackling as idea-packed a play as The History Boys or producing it as well as Palm Beach Dramaworks," Hap Erstein wrote in The Palm Beach Post. "The cast is magnificent," Rod Stafford Hagwood said in the Sun Sentinel.
Directed by J. Barry Lewis, The History Boys features four actors very familiar to PBD audiences. Colin McPhillamy plays Hector, Rob Donohoe is the Headmaster, Cliff Burgess portrays Irwin, and Angie Radosh plays another teacher, Mrs. Lintott. Their students, all new to PBD, are played by Jelani Alladin, Colin Asercion, Kristian Bikic, Kyle Branzel, Mike Magliocca, Matthew Minor, John Evans Reese, and Nathan Stark. Scenic design is by Victor Becker, costume design is by Erin Amico, lighting design is by Paul Black, and sound design is by Tyler Kieffer.
Alan Bennett has had a long and prolific career as a playwright, screenwriter (for film and television), actor, and author. Born in Leeds, England in 1934, he studied history at Oxford University and taught there for several years. But he left academia behind in 1960, when he appeared at the Edinburgh Festival in the revue Beyond the Fringe with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and Jonathan Miller. The show, which the four men co-wrote, was an instant hit, and went on to huge success in London and New York. Bennett continued to act and write, and in 1968 his first play, Forty Years On, was produced on the West End and starred John Gielgud. His best-known plays are The History Boys (2004) and The Madness of George III (1991), both of which premiered at the National Theatre and were subsequently made into films, with Bennett writing the screenplays.