Sponsored by FedEx; Ann and Wellford Tabor;
Pat, Ernest, Marian and Martha Kelly
Tennessee Shakespeare Company, in partnership with the University of Memphis’ Department of Theatre & Dance, calls to action-packed theatrical life the battlefields and courts of an ambitious young king in William Shakespeare’s masterwork on the chaos of war and the romance of peace: Henry V.
The rousing play famous for its many powerful speeches and orations, including “O for a muse of fire,” and “Once more unto the breach,” and “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” plays in a fun, new “wooden o” on the University’s mainstage from June 9-19.
Featuring a new, Elizabethan seating configuration that places patrons just off the raised stage (for only $10), a moving set, and slides of original wood-cuts from the early 15th century, TSC’s production of Henry V employs ten professional actors, including AEA performers from around the country. They will play over 30 roles in what is perhaps Shakespeare’s most theatrically self-aware play: “And let us, ciphers to this great account,/On your imaginary forces work.”
Though costumed for 15th century battle and adorned for the period’s courts of England and France, the company of actors constantly address their audience, changing costumes and characters in plan view, inviting the audience to become the eleventh actor.
The production’s title sponsors are FedEx; Ann and Wellford Tabor; and Pat, Ernest, Marian, and Martha Kelly. Together, they make possible Free Will Kids’ Night each Thursday night (up to four children 17 years and younger admitted free when accompanied by a paying, attending guardian). Additional funding is generously provided by the University of Memphis and First Tennessee Foundation.
Henry V is produced in memory of TSC friend, Dan Copp, who died in 2015. From 1943 to 1945, Lieutenant Copp served in the U.S. Navy on the battleship Tennessee. He saw action in the Pacific theater from the Aleutians to the South Sea Islands. With this production, TSC honors Dan’s courage, service, and friendship.
Directed by TSC’s Stephanie Shine (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet), Henry V features a professional ensemble from around the country: Montana native Colton Swibold in the title role, Paul Kiernan (recently in TSC’s Twelfth Night) as Fluellen/Canterbury/Cambridge/Burgundy, Gabriel Vaughan (recently in TSC’s Twelfth Night) as Dauphin/Westmerland/Jamy/Williams, Phil Darius Wallace (recently in TSC’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) as Exeter/Nym/Orleance, Michael Khanlarian (recently in TSC’s All’s Well That Ends Well) as Pistol/Constable, Heather Roberts (TSC’s All’s Well That Ends Well) as Montjoy/Quickly/Alice/MacMorris, and Kaitlyn Maurer (TSC’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) as Katherine/Grey/French prisoner.
New to the acting company are Jeffrey David Kent as Gower/French King/Ely/Erpingham, Blake Currie as Gloucester/boy, and Nic Picou as Scroop/Borbon/Bates/Bardolph.
The design team includes Janice Benning Lacek (costumes), Brian Ruggaber (scenic and properties), Anthony Pellecchia (lighting), Jo Sanburg (sound), and Mike O’Nele (technical director). The production stage manager is Ashley J. Nickas.
From 1595-1599, William Shakespeare created, along with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Much Ado About Nothing, and As You Like It, his second historical tetralogy. Both in order of writing and chronology of actual events, Shakespeare begins with the deposing of King Richard II, continues with the reign and civil war of King Henry IV, and concludes with the rise of a boy from riotous youth in the company of the fat knight Falstaff to a young man suddenly armed with power in the company of protectors, the church, and his God.
At the center of Shakespeare’s Henry V is England’s 15th century military invasion of France in an effort by the king and church, rightly they believe, if Byzantine, to win back the crown and land of France that they believe is rightfully theirs. The French disagree. Leaving three quarters of his military might to defend England from an imagined invasion by the Scots, King Henry and his happy few invade France, winning impossible victories (and a Queen) that remain conquests of tremendous courage, strategy, and, some may say, miracle.
The play, to Shakespeare’s everlasting credit, has been used variously even in just the past 80 years to embolden the mother country under German nighttime bombings during World War II and to strip away the trappings of patriotism to reveal the grim and mortal realities of war and its birth at the turn of our own century. Shakespeare, engaging both horror and humor, presents the question of war – not the answer.
At the play’s human level, though, Shakespeare gives us a young Hal now in his third play. The boy who defeated the honorific rebel Hotspur in his return from profligacy to protect his father and his realm is now parentless. And as the clergy remark at the top of the play, the new king is like a ripening strawberry, discovered beneath the nettles of his youth. As strong as his character and resolve have become, his gift for persuasive speech and his ability to rouse in both peace and war a mass of men to die for him and his country remains largely without compare in English literature. In this play of war, the excitement is stirred by language.
"Henry V is Shakespeare's most inherently theatrical play,” says Shine. “From its opening lines, it invites the audience to help create the play with their imaginations, citing the necessity for participation that gives promise to an exciting adventure. TSC's production will build upon that structure with on-stage seating flanking a raised stage that plays in front of the mainstage. Audiences and actors alike will enjoy the close proximity to one another, and the intimacy it affords the story-telling."
Performance Schedule at the University of Memphis’ Mainstage (Theatre Building on Central Ave.)
Thursday, June 9 at 7:00 pm: Preview; Free Will Kids’ Night
Friday, June 10 at 7:00 pm: Preview
Saturday, June 11 at 7:00 pm: Opening; Post-show party
Sunday, June 12 at 3:00 pm
Thursday, June 16 at 7:00 pm: Free Will Kids Night
Friday, June 17 at 7:00 pm
Saturday, June 18 at 7:00 pm
Sunday, June 19 at 3:00 pm: Closing