In Folger Theatre’s current production of Henry V, Catherine Flye plays Mistress Quickly, among other characters. Catherine is truly a staple in the DC theater community and has received a whopping 13 Helen Hayes Award nominations during the course of her remarkable career. In addition to her work as an actor, she has also directed several productions. Make sure to catch her on stage in Henry V, as the show must close on March 10. We asked Catherine a few questions about her work in the play, Shakespeare, and the DC theater scene. Here’s what she had to share with us:
Folger: Tell us what it’s like working on the Folger stage.
Catherine: I first appeared on the Folger Stage in 1986, playing Maria in Twelfth Night and since then have been fortunate enough to have worked as a director and actor on many productions there. It is always a joy to return to my favorite theatre where I feel totally at home amongst old friends.
Folger: What specifically draws you to the play Henry V? What’s unique and special about this play?
Catherine: Henry V resonates so clearly with audiences today – its language is glorious and the folk portrayed cover a spectrum of society which one can identify with today. It is intriguing to ponder that all those years ago, Henry was able to unite the Englishman, the Irishman, the Welshman and the Scotsman, and inspire them to fight for him and the country.
Folger: What is your favorite moment that takes place on stage in Henry V?
Catherine: Towards the end, when the battle-worn young King kneels down before Katharine and asks her to be his bride. He has been so heroic leading his men to the breach but now we see another side to him – endearing vulnerability and simple rhetoric. It is touching.
Folger: Do you speak French fluently?
Catherine: Absolutely not. I took French in school, but was never any good. A few phrases remain with me, but that is that.
Folger: How did you go about playing your scene where you are teaching Princess Katherine how to speak English?
Catherine: I confess, I was really worried about it. I started by making sure I understood exactly what was being said and listened to the scene from the Branaugh movie over and over to get the sounds into my head. I then wrote down the words in English, but with the right pronunciation for the French. Gobbledygook of course, but that helped me when I met with Gary [our vocal coach] who was wonderfully encouraging!
Folger: What is your favorite Shakespeare play – and why?
Catherine: This is a tough one but I think I have to say As You Like It. I loved playing Rosalind – what a gift that role is for a woman. I have directed the play three times – one special time at the Folger in 1996.
Folger: You have seen up close the DC theater scene over the years and have seen it thrive to the point it is at today. What do you see as being the most significant changes to the DC theater scene over the past few years?
Catherine: I find this hard to pinpoint. Maybe it needs someone from the outside to answer, but I think one of the most significant changes from those early days lies in the production values of the plays presented and in the talent of those actors/writers/designers/directors who have chosen to make DC their home. This is an extraordinary community and I feel privileged to be a part of it.
Folger: What would you like people to take away from this performance of Henry V as they leave the theater?
Catherine: The satisfaction of knowing they have seen a worthy production of this iconic history play and feel the better for it…
We’d like to thank Catherine for sharing with us and for taking part in our Henry V cast profiles! For more information, please visit www.folger.edu/theatre.