Hello again from Louis Butelli, currently playing Bardolph (and others) in Folger Theatre’s Henry V, which began preview performances last week. We open officially today – on Monday, January 28th – and there is no time like the present to purchase your tickets!
Previews are a very special time in the life of any show, and it has been a particularly special time for the ensemble of Henry V. Every day for the past three weeks, we’ve gone to work learning, exploring, and playing, in an attempt to bring this 415 year old piece to vibrant life.
Our show began its life in a bare rehearsal hall, with tape on the floor to indicate the placement of set pieces – which in Tony Cisek’s design includes multiple stairways, platforms, and moving pikes. Through the course of rehearsals, our director Robert Richmond led us in a series of experiments designed to bring 13 actors together as a team, and to discover the 48 characters we play along the way. With the assistance of dramaturg Michele Osherow, we picked apart Shakespeare’s text, leaving no word unexamined, and started the process of using this beautiful language to have an effect on each other.
Two weeks ago, we left the safety and comfort of the rehearsal hall and moved into the beautiful Elizabethan Theatre to begin our week of technical rehearsals, or “Tech,” which is indeed a four-letter word. Rehearsals are all about the actors – the words, the characters, the relationships, the stakes. Tech is all about folding that work into the physical space in which we tell our story. It is about the environment, the atmosphere, the “world” of the play. Through the course of long (very long!) days, the technical team, led by Che Wernsman, puts together the sound and light cues, the movement of all of our various set pieces, and the intricate backstage traffic patterns. It is grueling, but it is necessary, and, in my humble opinion, has paid off marvelously.
That all changed last week. Why? Because last week, we added the final, and most crucial ingredient: You.
All of the work we’ve done up to this point is just a framework. Now, we learn how to play the piece. When we meet our first audiences, you teach us how to tell this story. We learn what you find amusing, what makes you gasp, what makes you go deathly quiet. We learn the pace, the rhythm, the tempo. We discover our story, in real time, with you. And our process continues throughout the preview process. While we play for our first audiences in the evening, we return the following day to adjust the production based on what you have taught us. It is an absolute thrill.
I suppose, this is just to say that I hope you will join us for Henry V. We can’t do this without you. Come and see us in London, in Southhampton, in Harfleur, and in Agincourt. Get your tickets now – click here!
Thanks for reading. And while you’re at it, check out this excellent piece at DC Theatre Scene – our amazing King Henry, Zach Appelman, talks about our show.
Until next time!