Dixie State College’s fine arts department’s rendition of “Henry V” will be more experimental than audiences may expect.
Rather than producing the play traditionally, director Michael Harding, associate professor of theater, chose to explore the character of Henry V. The play will consist of only five actors playing Henry V.
“We’re taking the character of Henry V, literally just the lines of him and the chorus lines, and we’re exploring the character that’s created in the script, as opposed to the script and the story itself,” Harding said.
Harding said experimental approaches are important for the academic side of the theater.
“Now that Dixie State is becoming a university, this is the kind of research, or academic work, that’s going to be necessary in the theater,” Harding said.
Harding said the play would also prove to be an excellent academic exercise for the student actors.
“Usually when actors get cast in their roles in a play, they focus on that role and don’t look at the play as a whole,” Harding said. “Speaking as a professional actor and a teacher, I can say firsthand that’s a mistake.”
Actor Bethany Gudgell, a junior theater major from Ogden, said the actors chose their lines based on which sections they connected with. She said learning to connect through Shakespeare’s language proved a great experience.
“Shakespeare wrote his characters so everyone could relate to them somehow,” she said. “They’re very human characters.”
Gudgell also said the play has allowed her to learn Shakespeare’s complicated language.
“Once you can learn a Shakespeare piece, you can pretty much learn anything else,” she said. “It’s definitely taught me a lot about the language of a piece of theater…being able to let the language speak for itself, more than relying on the spectacle.”
Harding said his version of the play would not only allow audiences and actors to explore the character, but that it would deconstruct the legendary figure of Shakespeare’s Henry V.
“In doing deconstructions like this, is the final product what theater should be for this play?” Harding asked. “No. I do think this is only the first step in experimenting with the character, but hopefully, the actors working in this and I, the director working on this, will understand Henry at a level that’s deeper than just societal assumptions, and we’ll really understand what the text says.”
Gudgell said the deconstructed play follows Henry V’s journey to Shakespeare’s legendary character.
“We get to go through Henry growing up and becoming a man,” she said. “We get to go from him being a king, but doesn’t think he can be a king, to truly succeeding and becoming a great king.”
Harding said Shakespeare’s characters, such as Henry V, often overshadowed the real historical figures, and he hoped audiences would enjoy the attempt to explore one of those larger-than-life characters.
He said: “I want [audiences] to know Henry V as intimately as we do —not just as a character in a story, but [I want them] ultimately to walk out of there and understand this king and who he really is.”