Shakespeare's Henry IV in West Philadelphia's Clark Park. Credit: Brian Siano on YouTube.
When a staging of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” opens tonight in Philadelphia, city native Brian Anthony Wilson, a black actor perhaps best known for being Detective Vernon Holley in the award-winning “The Wire” television series, will take the stage as king.
“I’m here because I am an actor,” Wilson said. “And I’m selfishly doing this. Playing a king is a challenge but the bigger thing, the key thing, is that I’m showing kids of color and people of color more of what we can do and see.”
That’s an important message for West Philadelphia, the neighborhood where the adaptation kicks off a four-night run in Clark Park, a block off the 43rd Street trolley stop on Baltimore Avenue. Three-quarters of the neighborhood’s residents are black—a demographic not usually counted among Shakespeare fans—and some of them will help stage a battle scene in the production.