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All-female cast performs “Henry V”

| Friday, April 4, 2014

An all-female rendition of Shakespeare’s “Henry V” debuted Thursday in the Little Theatre of Moreau Center for the Arts as the second of two shows in the Saint Mary’s theatre program’s season.

20140403, SMC Henry IV, Caroline GencoCaroline Genco | The Observer

Associate professor of theatre and director Mark Abram-Copenhaver said the choice to cast the production exclusively with women allows the Bard’s traditional story to be told through a new lens.

Eighteen Saint Mary’s students and five faculty and staff members from within the community compose the cast and range from experienced actors to first-time performers, Abram-Copenhaver said.

As production manager of the Notre Dame Summer Shakespeare Festival for many years, Abram-Copenhaver said he has learned there is something truly timeless about Shakespeare.

“When you can be precise with the language of Shakespeare and make the poetry clear to an audience, then you can do that with more modern texts even more effectively,” he said.

Rosalind Clark, a cast member and professor of English, said the basis of the play does not take one single view about war but rather is a realistic portrayal about what all different people think and do in war.

“Some people are patriotic, scared, some use it as an opportunity to loot and steal,” Clark said. “Many men use it as an opportunity to ‘puff’ [up and] show how great they are. A few people notice the terrible suffering it causes.”

Clark said the hardest part about playing her male character, the constable, is making the audience realize how interesting he is.

“The other thing that is terribly hard is remembering when I have to do all the different things, and doing them quickly and on time,” Clark said. “As an English professor, I’m always thinking about the lines and how beautiful they are, then I forget where I’m supposed to be onstage.”

The complexities of the production, including all the different characters, sets, costumes, props, lighting and projections, will keep the audience on their toes, Clark said.

“The director must hold all of this in his mind and decide in a moment what is most important,” she said.  “It puts me in awe of what Mark [Abram-Copenhaver] must do.

“I notice a huge difference between the performing arts and the kind of teaching that goes on in non-performing classes. In the performing arts, people know that they must practice it over and over to get it exactly right, whereas in my English class we read ‘Henry V’ in one week, and I know people just got a very hazy idea of it.”

Junior Erin Moran, who plays the lead role, said she looked forward to the audience reaction to the all-female cast and the abstract take on the story.

“I think it’s important to the whole community because of the message it has about the evils of war, but specifically to the Saint Mary’s community to show that we women are capable of anything,” she said. “[We are capable] of conveying stories about war that happened hundreds of years ago, and we can do it justice.”

Moran said that in order for the show to go well, the fast pace of it is energizing every second.

“Especially in the war scenes, because it’s a battle, it’s all choreographed stage combat, and you have to remain focused so it’s very high energy,” she said.

She said the central message of the production is storytelling.

“We are taking this as if we are all storytellers,” she said. “We aren’t acknowledging the fact that we are women. We are saying we are women; we are capable of telling the story because it’s a story that needs to be told. Our costumes and body language are asexual. It’s focused on the story as gender neutral.”

‘Henry V’ will run Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in Little Theater in Moreau Center for the Arts.

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