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A Director's Journey

I’m Francis RTM Boyle. We’ll get to the RTM part later; I assure you it is relevant. My journey towards directing Shakespeare’s King Henry V began at 10 pm Eastern Standard Time on New Year’s Day, 1990. I was seven years old and waiting for the next episode of my beloved Star Trek: The Next Generation to begin. Instead of the bridge of the Enterprise-D, I was transported to a night scene: a camp with a pavilion tent (seven year old Francis, a precocious boy, knew what a pavilion tent was) a campfire and three common soldiers. “Brother John Bates,” one of the soldiers said, “is not that the morning which breaks yonder?” The scene unfolded and I was entranced.

I had experienced my first words of Shakespeare performed brilliantly. Shakespeare is too often done blandly and dull: sometimes the actors don’t seem to care what they are saying, or the director always seemed too intrigued by what new special effect to embrace, but sometimes people are just paying homage to a legend. That night, however, the story came alive. The story was Act Four, Scene One of Henry V,. Henry goes throughout his camp, disguised, to “share the fears of his men on the night before the battle.” And he finds not all of them are great supporters of his cause.

Theatre became an increasingly large part of my life. I even took Saint Thomas More as my confirmation name after the saint’s life was so brilliantly depicted in Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons (told you the RTM would be relevant, and the R stands for Robert). Theatre became my life, and it’s been a terrific adventure. Last year, when my wife Angie and I were selected to direct Henry V for Pigeon Creek, I was tremendously excited; I still am. The chance to stage the play which helped put me on this path has been such fun.

Usually Angie and I do our own adaptation of the scripts in question. Shakespeare plays often run over the “two hours’ traffic” spoken of in Romeo & Juliet, so you have to cut. Sometimes you also have to deal with different printings as well. We usually look back to the original 16th and 17th century texts (thankfully available as pdfs from Early English Books Online and other printers) and decide what version or adaptation of versions we want to use. In Henry V, the adapter is Paul Riopelle, who also plays Henry.

In Paul we found a wonderful collaborator. He is one of the few people I know who loves this play as much as I do. Paul, Angie, and I met and discussed the play and we all combined forces to create the final cut of the play. We also dug very deeply into Henry’s psychology, which helped with a great question: which Henry did we want to present?

Angie and I are intentionally de-mythologizing Henry in this production. So many great moments are found in this epic work: “Once more unto the breach,” “St. Crispin’s Day,” and “Band of Brothers.” Shakespeare and this play loom large in our society. To keep from getting lost in the mythos of Henry and of Shakespeare, we focus on the psychological realism of the play from moment to moment. We’ve used this approach before, and we like it because it keeps us honest. Our Henry succeeds at great things, but he faces grave difficulties. Yes, Henry fought a battle that he miraculously won against 5 to 1 odds, but we take special care to highlight that nothing came easily for him- not the preparations for the war, the siege of Harfleur, or the Battle of Agincourt.

The production, soon to open, is a culmination of many minds and hands, from our twelve actor strong cast, to Pigeon Creek’s board, to the audiences we will hopefully attract, to Angie and I. I am excited to see it and proud to have had a hand in it. I hope Captain Picard would be impressed.

Dear patrons, lay in a course for Dog Story Theatre, maximum warp. Engage!

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