The stage is set, the lights are ready, the actors are dressed and the music is playing. The only thing missing from this year’s production of Shakespeare’s classic Henry V is an audience. But the cast and crew will get just that when opening night arrives on Friday, Oct. 16 at the Center for Performing Arts.
Henry V is a play written by William Shakespeare and is set in the early fifteenth century. It tells the story of a tense political situation in England. King Henry IV has died and left his young son, Henry V, to assume the throne. A series of horrific civil wars in England have left the citizens bitter and resentful of the new king. Henry V deals with his new responsibilities as king and threats against his life as he tries to bring peace to England.
“Interestingly, Shakespeare seemed to be aware of these ironies, and in many ways, his play seems to be a commentary on the futility of war,” said Irene Alby, associate theater lecturer and director of Henry V.
In UT’s production of Henry V, the play is very true to the script, with dramatic acting of comedy and fight scenes. Alby combines the classical context and a contemporary approach to build a play that is both enlightening and entertaining.
“I have come to love this play through directing it,” said Alby. “I have performed Shakespeare as an actor, but this is my first directorial attempt and I jumped in at the last minute when we had to reshuffle directing assignments. I have discovered I love directing Shakespeare as much as I love performing it.”
The show is being brought to life by costume designer Jane Scott, a professional artist who has designed locally, nationally and internationally. Daniel Thobias, a professional designer and UT faculty member, created a unique and very adaptable set for the play, which includes a real, life-size wagon. The audience will also be immersed in an atmosphere created by Stephen Sakowski, who uses lights, sounds and special effects such as fog.
Joining the cast is Qarie Marshall, a visiting lecturer of theater at UT, professional actor and the host of NPR’s Morning Edition of FM 91, which is Toledo’s public radio station. Marshall was trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London and helps the actors at UT as an accent coach.
Marshall attended UT before living in England for twenty years and recently came back to be with family. He was asked to teach at UT and he accepted. He’s known Alby for years and enjoys working with her.
“Irene’s directing style is incredibly unique and I think that it’s incredibly important,” Marshall said. “She’s bringing in a lot of European traditions that the students wouldn’t usually see in undergrad, and it’s very important for them to have that exposure.”
Marshall believes that UT’s theater students are more focused than they were when he attended over twenty years ago. He praised them by saying they are very disciplined and good at taking criticism and putting it to work.
Marshall brings life to Chorus in this reenactment of Henry V. Chorus is the narrator of the play, a professor retelling the story in contemporary times.
“My goal with playing Chorus is to excite the audience and to make it clear for them to follow and to not scare them with the language and make the images strong for them,” Marshall said. “I just love the theater.”
The main character of the play, Henry V, is personified by Nolan Thomaswick, a junior majoring in theater. He performed in last season’s performance of Twelfth Night and also in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Toledo Symphony.
“I definitely plan to bring a lot of energy to Henry,” Thomaswick said. “I think the rest of the cast is wonderful and together we will put on a wonderful show.”
After graduation from UT, Thomaswick plans to earn an MFA in theater from a graduate school and eventually perform on Broadway. He says he’s learning a lot from Alby and Marshall.
“Qarie is awesome and it’s an absolute honor to work with him,” Thomaswick said. “He’s done a lot of acting work and just to learn from him, and the theater wisdom he brings to it, is great.”
Henry V will be performed Oct. 16-18 and October 23-25. Showtimes and ticket information can be found on UT’s Theatre and Film webpage.