A Special Orem Public Library Performance of HENRY 5–FREE!

by Anne Flinders, dramaturgBYU's HENRY 5, 2013

BYU’s Young Company cast and crew is bringing a free performance of Henry 5 to the Orem Public Library (58 N State St, Orem). This special performance is a tradition that Young Company has shared with the library for several years, bringing excellent children’s theatre to the Orem community.

John Valdez in BYU's Young Company production of HENRY 5.

John Valdez in BYU’s Young Company production of HENRY 5.

The performance will be on Monday, April 15th at 7:00 pm in the storytelling wing of the library; the performance lasts about 50 minutes. It is open to the public and free of charge. The company will present the same production they have taken on the road over the past semester as part of their tour to elementary schools across the Wasatch Front.

One exciting and fun element of children’s theatre with Young Company is the invitation extended by cast members to some of the children in the audience to join the cast onstage. One of our cast members, Sarah Flinders (Canterbury/Boy/French King), was introduced to Shakespeare onstage as a little girl during a BYU Young Company production at the Orem library. She and  her sisters were invited to perform alongside the actors in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, so technically her role in this production is not her first with the Young Company players! Children in the audience can again hope to be invited to share the stage with the cast in this production of Henry 5, just as Sarah did years ago.

The cast of BYU's Young Company production of HENRY 5

The cast of BYU’s Young Company production of HENRY 5

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“O, for a muse of fire!” Henry 5 Act I, Prologue

by Anne Flinders, dramaturg

The Young Company opened its production of Henry 5 last week, both on tour and in the Nelke Theatre. Preparing for this play required each cast member to explore and develop characters that are diverse in age, gender, and experience. We asked the cast what has been a source of inspiration for them in preparing for their roles in Henry 5? Is there something particular that encapsulates a source of inspiration for the performances you give in the play? In other words: What or who is your “muse”?

Sarah Flinders plays the Boy, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the King of France. To find inspiration in forming these characters she said she looked to literature for a little bit of help. “I tried to find characters in books I loved as a child who were similar to the people in the play. Not to say that I copy these characters. However, I take the idea of the motivations that my own characters have and try to find ways to incorporate the characteristics of that character ‘type.’”

Playing Nym, Lord Scroop, and Bates, Camilla Hodgson looked to her cast members to help prepare for her performance. “I am inspired by all the hard work that each member of our team has put into the creation this show. It has been a long process, and I am excited to show everyone our final product!”

The cast of BYU's Young Company production of Shakespeare's "HENRY 5".

The cast of BYU’s Young Company production of William Shakespeare’s HENRY 5.

Kristen Leinbach, who plays, Sir Thomas Grey, Mistress Quickly, and Montjoy the herald said, “My biggest inspiration has been working together as a cast and becoming our own ‘band of brothers’.  As our character relationships grew, so did our friendships. We have worked together to build one another up and provide each other with confidence and strength.  This play has become a reflection of the cast and crew coming together as a band of brothers.”

Henry 5 is currently playing to sell-out audiences in the Nelke Experimental Theatre at BYU’s Harris Fine Arts Center through February 16th. Tickets are still available the remaining performances.

“Nice customs curtsy to great kings.” Henry 5 Act 5, Scene 2

by Anne Flinders, dramaturg

Brigham Young University’s Young Company production of Henry 5 will bring with it a different, but perhaps not wholly unusual cast. The title role of King Henry V is being played by Mackenzie Larsen, a pre-acting major. In fact, there are four women in the cast of seven, and only one female role in the script. All the women are playing male roles.

The cast of BYU's Henry 5.

The cast of BYU’s Young Company Production of HENRY 5.

Making a cross-gender casting choice in the title role of Henry 5 may come as a surprise to some theatre goers, but it is not without precedent. From the beginnings of professional English theatre in the 1560s to the closure of the theatres in 1642, boys were the performers of female roles in an age when it was considered unacceptable for women to act. Cross-gender casting (boys playing women) was therefore a familiar and acceptable practice, even an expectation, in Elizabethan theatre. However, women did not begin to appear on the stage in England until 1661, and when they did, they played women.

A lot has changed in the last 350 years. Casting women in male roles while reading the character’s gender as female is becoming a bit of a trend in theatre and film today. Fiona Shaw played the title role in Shakespeare’s Richard II in London in1996. While the production received initial mixed reviews (mostly because of casting Ms. Shaw as Richard), it did open up the idea that a woman could play a woman in a man’s role, rather than attempting to portray a male in the way boys portrayed females in Elizabethan theatre. For example, this idea was carried further when in 2010 Helen Mirren played Prospera in The Tempest, a decidedly female portrayal of the exiled sorcerer.

Mackenzie Larsen plays King Henry V in BYU's HENRY 5.

Mackenzie Larsen plays King Henry V in BYU’s HENRY 5.

The director of BYU’s production of Henry 5, Megan Sanborn Jones, stated that part of her decision to cast a female in the title role lay in the fact that “there are simply not enough great roles for women, particularly in Shakespeare.” She also found that she gained new insights into the role through this casting choice. It prompted a very particular way of adapting Shakespeare’s script into a 50-minute play.

When Mackenzie Larsen learned that the title role would be played by a female, she was excited. “I loved the idea of having a female put in such a position of power.” As she became more familiar with the script she found that some of the lines are about “manning up and being like a King.” Larsen states, “The way these lines read with a woman as Henry gives them new meaning and gives the audience new perspective. The factor of being a woman and trying to prove yourself to a bunch of men makes Henry’s story that much more inspiring.”

Larsen says she has found that one of the challenges in taking on this role has been actually playing Henry as a girl. But she has found that once she stopped worrying so much about making the part fit the way people expect it to be, and just allows herself to be in the moment, she overcomes those concerns. She says, “Being present is powerful enough.”

BYU’s Henry 5 opens February 6th and runs through February 16th. Tickets are on sale now.

“Winding up days with toil and nights with sleep.” Henry 5 Act 4, Scene 1

by Anne Flinders, dramaturg

Henry 5 Rehearsal. L to R: Kristen Leinbach as Montjoy and Mackenzie Larsen as King Henry V.

Rehearsal, Henry 5 . L to R: Kristen Leinbach as Montjoy and Mackenzie Larsen as King Henry V.

Last week the Henry 5 cast held three more rehearsals. Rehearsal days are exhausting; a typical rehearsal for this play begins at 8:00 a.m. with a physical warm-up and an overview of the day’s work.  This is followed by dance and fight choreography, blocking more of the stage action, and some scene polishing. The cast is generally allowed a half-hour break for lunch, after which they return to the rehearsal space to run and polish scenes until 2:00 p.m.

Rehearsal, Henry 5. Matthew Fife as Fluellen.

Rehearsal, Henry 5. Matthew Fife as Fluellen.

Six hours is a long rehearsal for a student, particularly when many in the cast go to classes immediately after, but this week’s Thursday rehearsal was especially challenging. The cast arrived at 7:00 a.m. and learned new choreography for some segments of the opening and closing dance numbers. They blocked and choreographed another fight sequence for one of the historic battle scenes, after which they ran the entire play. Following the run-through, the cast was trained by the hair and make-up designers. As Henry 5 will be a touring show, the cast members need to be able to do their own hair and make-up on the road.   After an hour break, the cast returned in costume and make-up to meet with a photographer for a publicity photo shoot. (Great action-packed shots were taken which will be released soon.) Following the photo shoot, a camera crew arrived and a video shoot was taped that will be released as advertisement for the play. The shoot wrapped at 6:00 p.m, ending a successful day of rehearsal for this hard-working cast.

Rehearsal, Henry 5. L to R: Sarah Flinders as the Boy and Mackenzie Larsen as King Henry V.

Rehearsal, Henry 5. L to R: Sarah Flinders as the Boy and Mackenzie Larsen as King Henry V.

This marathon Thursday was followed by an extra rehearsal that was called on Saturday at 8:00 a.m. The cast was joined by two BYU Young Company alumni, Sarah Kron (The Hundred Dresses, 2011) and Jenna Hawkins (The Merchant of Venice, 2012), who trained them in how to run workshops for the elementary students who the play will be performed for. The cast chose games and activities to enrich the experience the children will have with this Shakespeare play. After a brief break, the cast worked for an hour on polishing transitions between scenes, dances, and battles. Then the play was given another full run with props incorporated.

The last week of January will also mark the last week of rehearsals for the cast of Henry 5. The show opens its elementary school tour on the 5th of February, and the play opens in the Nelke Theatre at BYU’s Harris Fine Arts Center on February 6th at 7:00 p.m. The show runs through February 16th. Tickets are on sale now.

“Let us…on your imaginary forces work.” Henry 5 Prologue, Act I

By Anne Flinders, dramaturg

The second week of rehearsals for BYU’s Henry 5 is completed, and the show is taking shape with an exciting look and sound that is unlike most Shakespeare plays.

The cast, directed by Megan Sanborn Jones, worked this week on incorporating movement from last semester’s Contemporary Performance Studies class into the play. The opening scene was developed on Thursday using viewpointing for blocking the cast’s interactions with each other and the audience as they present the prologue of the first act.  It will be a highly theatrical opening Shakespeare scene!

Henry 5 Movement rehearsal led by Dr. Jones

Henry 5 Movement rehearsal led by Dr. Jones

Another major element of the play is the sparseness of the set and props. This play will be a touring show, and from February through April the cast will travel to elementary schools twice a week across the Wasatch Front. The play is designed to be easily portable and able to be accommodated by a variety of school settings. Dr. Jones led the cast in exploring ways of using simple prop pieces of various sizes to represent all kinds of war implements and courtly decor. Four large square blocks serve as the only set pieces, and are being moved, stacked, and restacked by the cast in a variety of ways to create the many settings in which the play takes place.

The underscoring of the play is being designed by Michelle Ohumukini, who is bringing the sounds of rock bands, string quartets, indie-pop singers, and symphony orchestras to the play’s soundscape. The music of the play is an integral ingredient to the energy of the plot and its audience appeal. This is Shakespeare like you haven’t heard it before.

The on-BYU-campus performance of Henry 5 runs from February 6th through February 16th. Tickets are on sale now.

 

“I am Boy to them all.” Henry 5, Act III, Scene 2

by Anne Flinders, dramaturg

Live theatre is always an adventure. And this new year has provided a big one.

Rehearsals for Henry 5 began on the 8th of January, and began with quite a surprise. Due to some special circumstances, we had a cast member who had to relinquish her spot. Which means we were faced with the challenge of finding a replacement.

The difficulty in filling a newly opened role for this production lies in the fact that the play’s rehearsals are held from 8am to 2pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays during January. Most students, of course, have classes during these times. With only about ten rehearsals on the schedule to prepare the play, a replacement needed to be found quickly. After some brainstorming and phone calls, a new cast member was located from among the list of last spring’s auditioners. Her talents are considerable, and her schedule was flexible enough to allow her to step right in during that first rehearsal!

We are happy to announce that Sarah Flinders will be taking the roles of the Bishop of Canterbury, the King of France, and the Boy. We wish her, and the entire cast, great luck as they prepare to present BYU’s Young Company Production of Henry 5!

The “Henry 5 Project” in Performance

By Anne Flinders, dramaturg

On the 28th of November, the TMA 401 class performed their devised production of Henry 5 as a Mask Club performance in the Nelke Theatre on BYU’s campus before an audience of theatre students, professors, and invited guests.

The production was prepared and staged by four groups that had been created during the semester from the TMA 401 class. Each group was assigned to prepare one of the first four acts from Shakespeare’s The Life of King Henry the Fifth. The groups each chose their own concepts, developed their own cuttings of the script, and created costumes and props supporting their productions.

After working on these individual pieces during the semester, the groups came together for two rehearsals to develop connection and flow between each act, melding the four pieces into one cohesive production. Lighting and sound were inserted during these rehearsals to augment the play, and on the afternoon of November 28th, the devised production of The Henry 5 Project “went on the boards.” Perhaps sharing accounts of the play from audience members would be a helpful way of describing what took place on the Nelke stage that afternoon. The following is a compilation of comments and observations made by students who are members of TMA 101, Intro to Theatre.

“The play begins with five actors in preppy tennis clothes, who fight verbally while viciously swinging tennis rackets, representing the back-and-forth-battle between England and France. The next scene is done by a group of five all dressed in everyday clothes such as jeans and sweaters, with one of the characters rapping a complaint about his associations with some of Henry’s former friends and the impending war about to take place. In the next scene, all the actors wear black face paint and stomp around in leather clothing, exposing traitors to Henry and thieves among the ranks of British soldiers. Finally, the actors in the last scene huddle around a fire, with ‘spears’ for props, while singing a pop song as a rallying cry.

“Through dramatic body movement using techniques like viewpointing and Suzuki, the different acts of Henry 5 were able to have a cohesive theme. All the body movements throughout the separate acts were succinct and deliberate motions; strong body motions and hand gestures were used to create war-like actions. Despite the contributions from many different groups, the solid movements came across as a consistent element of the play. One particularly strong choice was the transfer of the role of Henry from actor to actor (all played by women). This was done by actors placing a hand on each other’s shoulder and then rotating a quarter turn to exchange both stage position and character.

“The modern costume styles and color choices also connected the scenes together to make the play one cohesive story. The English all had hues of red with accents of black, while the French were costumed in blue tones. Overall there was a consistent feeling of characterization and opposition between warm and cool colors. At one point, King Henry was distinguished by a gold beanie to represent a crown.

“Although very different from the original play, The Henry 5 Project did a great job of using elements such as costuming and movement to portray the four groups’ different concepts and interpretations of the classic script. Each scene had its own distinctive style that separated it from the other scenes, but despite the many different voices, the story of King Henry came through in a consistent, unified, and entertaining production.”

Moment Work and the Henry 5 Project

by Anne Flinders, dramaturg

The development of BYU’s Young Company production of Henry 5 is growing out of a series of workshop-style classes that are part of the course TMA 401 Contemporary Theatre Practices.  Last week the students began blocking some of the segments of the play. Blocking is the process of planning where, when, and how actors will move about the stage during a performance. Normally in blocking a show, the director determines where the actors will stand or cross and position themselves in the course of the play. For Henry 5, however, blocking is being determined by the cast, the crew and the class of TMA 401 using a process called moment work.

Tectonic Theatre Group

Moment work is a technique developed by Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Project (The Laramie Project, 33 Variations). It focuses on the importance of theatrical exploration in the creation of new work, especially in the early stages of new play development. Describing what moment work is the Tectonic Theater Project’s web site states: “Using a laboratory setting, the technique encourages the participants to create work that is uniquely theatrical. It pushes writers, actors, designers and directors to collaborate in the making of work that focuses on using all theatrical elements. The technique breaks apart the traditional roles of theater artists, enfranchising artists of all disciplines to move out of their defined roles and become theater-makers: true investigators of the possibilities of the medium.”

In the TMA 401 class, members of the Henry 5 project selected a single line, a primary action, or a minute circumstance that arises somewhere in the script of Henry 5, and developed that bit into a moment of the play, an articulated moment of movement and meaning that encapsulated either the concept or the progression of the play as a whole. These moments developed by the students may later find themselves becoming part of the BYU production of Henry 5, which will then travel with the Young Company touring group to elementary schools up and down the Wasatch Front next semester.

Works Cited

Causey, Trish. “blocking – A definition of the theater term blocking.” Welcome to the Official Theatre Site on About.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2012. http://theater.about.com/od/glossary/g/blocking.htm.

“Tectonic Training Lab.” Tectonic Theater Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2012. <http://www.tectonictheaterproject.org/Tectonic_Training_Lab.html>.


Auditions for Henry 5 Part Two: Viewpoints

by Anne Flinders, dramaturg

A unique approach to making plays is through devised theatre, a technique that allows cast and staff members to build a play from the ground up, and from any starting point: a script, a social question or position, a set piece, a color scheme, anything that inspires the desire and direction to create a play. The script of Henry 5 already exists, of course. However, Professor Megan Sanborn Jones, this production’s director, chose to offer the realization of the play as a class project to Theatre and Media Arts students taking TMA 401 (Contemporary Performances Practices). One of the contemporary practices Professor Jones introduced to the class as a means to devise Henry 5 is called “viewpoints.”

Viewpoints is an acting technique that was developed in the 1970s by choreographer Mary Overlie. It is based on improvisational movement and gesture, and was adapted for stage acting by Anne Bogart and Tina Landau. Viewpointing uses 6 basic elements–space, story, time, emotion, movement, and shape–in various combinations to create movement and staging with actors (Bogart). This technique was put into practice during the second stage of auditions for BYU’s Henry 5.

At the beginning of the semester, the class chose the concept of this production of Henry 5 from a list of four possibilities they developed from their initial reading of the play. A couple of weeks later the class attended a workshop that taught some of the basic elements and execution styles of viewpointing. The class was broken into three groups, with one group consisting of the acting team, and the remaining two made up of the class and members of the production team. The groups chose a line from Henry 5, and created a movement piece built around that line, viewpointing their interactions with each other. These pieces were performed for the class. The class was then asked to watch the acting team’s piece and look for evidences that might suggest which actors seemed like good fits for the various roles in the play. Most of the roles were determined by the class using this process.

As some of the actors received assignments, it became more difficult for the class to determine which remaining actors should be assigned to what roles. Professor Jones then suggested some brief scenarios that the actors could portray through viewpoints, such as a scene depicting the character Exeter bringing the body of the Boy to King Henry. This enabled the class to make more casting assignments, until all but two actors and two roles remained, the role of King Henry and the combined role of Mistress Quickly and the herald Montjoy. Finally, to determine this last assignment, the class was dismissed and the remaining two actors were asked to do a brief reading from the play. Based on this, the two actors determined between themselves which one of them was the best fit for the part of the Henry the King.

After this unique audition process ended, the class was asked if they had ever experienced something like this before. Those who responded said that this was the first time they had been in an audition of this type. Even Professor Jones said she has never auditioned a show in this way before. “I thought that it would be a good way of casting a show that we have been trying to make ultimately collaborative.  I think that if the cast/class is to have ownership over the production, they also need to have ownership over [the casting] decisions.”

Asked what she liked about using viewpoints as an audition process, Mackenzie Larsen said, “It helped me get to know the rest of the cast through a creative medium and gave us artistic purpose… [It] removed my anxiety [and] allowed me to act on instinct and observation. I was able to focus less on being right and more on being real.” Camilla Hodgson stated, “I liked it because it wasn’t high pressure. We were able to see people’s strengths in a collaborative environment. We were allowed to be very natural.” And Mary Matheson observed, “I liked how there was a certain degree of unconscious involvement in the process.  Viewpointing is an open and liberating process; there are principles that provide guidance to movement and action, but within them, there is so much freedom, unlimited ‘right’ answers, and possibilities.”

When asked what some of the takeaways from this kind of audition process might be, Nathan Stout shared that “having the ability to engage bodies in a collaborative way was a huge breakthrough for me. To improve, I would increase focus outward towards other cast members.” Matthew Fife discovered, “[Viewpointing] works great to build unity in an ensemble. I felt very connected to my fellow cast-mates; viewpointing helps walls and barriers come down so that everyone can move forward together.”

Works Cited

Bogart, Anne, and Tina Landau. The viewpoints book: a practical guide to viewpoints and composition. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2005. Print.

Auditions for Henry 5 Part One: Choosing an Acting Team

by Anne Flinders, dramaturg

In March of 2012, auditions for Young Company’s upcoming productions of Sleepy Hollow and Henry 5 were announced. Hopeful BYU students attending the initial auditions did not really knowing what to prepare themselves for. They were asked not to deliver a monologue as in a traditional audition setting, or to give a cold reading from a script. Instead, they were broken into pairs and asked to recreate a telling of a fairy tale. Auditioners who were invited to callbacks were asked to be prepared to spend the entire two hours of the scheduled audition with the staff, and to wear comfortable clothes they could move in.

Professor Megan Sanborn Jones

At callbacks the auditioners were broken into groups and led by Professor Megan Sanborn Jones, the director of Henry 5, through a series of movement-based exercises. This included exaggerated marching/stomping steps (a Sazuki theatre exercise), frozen and fluid poses, and other motions and actions that challenged and demonstrated the physical skills of the auditioners. Groups were rearranged several times in order to allow the auditioners to work with nearly all the people who were participating. Auditioners were given improvisation scenarios to create in these groups. Finally, some of the auditioners were asked to read a few lines from segments of Shakespeare’s Henry 5, and to perform these readings in a variety of voices and physicalities.

Through these exercises, seven students were selected to form the acting team of BYU’s Young Company production of William Shakespeare’s Henry 5. These students were not assigned to specific roles in the play at this point. In Part II, we will share with you the next step in the audition process: how viewpointing, an acting technique based on movement and gesture, was used to select which actors would be matched the roles of the play.