For the second time in a row, the generous artists at Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company have made a career-long dream of mine come true.
Four years ago, I was honored to join the company for a stellar production of Antony and Cleopatra. Having previously played Antony in Julius Caesar, I had yearned for years to finish the character’s arc in its sequel. Enter Pigeon Creek, who moved heaven and earth to raise the money for an Equity contract, and have me aboard for A&C.
In this smaller but on-the-rise company, I discovered one of the best directors and casts I have ever had the pleasure of working with in over 15 years doing Shakespeare. Though she be but little, she is fierce.
It’s no wonder, then, that even before that production closed, I was already anticipating the next opportunity I might have to work with these fine artists. And I knew precisely the project I hoped to assail with them—a conflation of the two parts of Henry IV.
Not unlike my fascination with Antony’s arc, I have been fairly obsessed for years with the journey that Prince Hal takes over the course of the Henry IV plays, culminating in his transformation into the mature and dynamic king in Henry V. It has been at the very top of my personal bucket-list to play Henry in these three plays since I was a young buck at conservatory. But as the years went by—and I still had not found the opportunity to play him—I feared my dream of walking in his boots from Eastcheap to Shrewsbury to the fields of Agincourt might never happen.
Re-enter Pigeon Creek. Having produced a memorable Richard II last season, it was suggested the company continue Shakespeare’s eight-play History Cycle, in the spirit of the BBC’s Hollow Crown series. Such an ambitious undertaking would follow Richard II with the two parts of Henry IV, then Henry V, the three parts of Henry VI—known collectively as The Wars of the Roses—and conclude with the final play of the cycle, Richard III. I was overjoyed when the board decided to move forward with this audacious plan, and I was invited to take part in it. Not only would I have the chance to accomplish a personal milestone, but upon the plan’s fruition, Pigeon Creek Shakespeare would hold the distinction of being only the third professional Shakespeare Company in the United States to present Shakespeare’s entire History Cycle in chronological order. Fierce, indeed.
As for playing Hal a little later than expected, I’m certainly not the first actor who’s had to wait awhile to achieve a coveted part—I’m in good company. When Martin Sheen played John Proctor in The Crucible on Broadway in 1991, he was several years older than the role is generally cast. When asked about it, he explained that it had long been a Dream Role of his, but the stars had never aligned to take it on until that moment—‘I should have done this play fifteen years ago and I didn’t then, so I must do it now.’
That moment has finally arrived for me with Prince Hal in Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2. I must do it now. And I couldn’t be more grateful than to be doing it with this extraordinary director and ensemble at Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company. If we do our job right, our audience will recognize and remember their own struggles to become adults reflected in Hal’s wonderful rise to manhood.
We trust it will be worth the watching. For me…it’s certainly been worth the wait.