Sharing Stories Through Songs

When audiences come to see Pigeon Creek shows, there are a number of things they can expect to see.

1.) Really awesome Shakespeare performances 2.) All of the other audience member (we perform with universal lighting) 3.) Minimal sets, usually just a bench or some blocks. Occasionally a balcony. 4.–99.) Lots of other awesome things that I won’t name, but you all know. Plus, I’ve got to get to the point. 5.) Super fun, well performed, toe-tapping live music! I bring this up because in our upcoming production of ”Henry VI” our live musical performances will feature even a larger role in the production. For those of you who may not know Shakespeare actually wrote THREE plays about the life of Henry VI. They are conveniently titled: “Henry VI: Part I,” “Henry VI: Part II,” and “Henry VI: Part III.” Very exciting.

There are many Shakespeare companies that perform each play in its entirety as part of what is commonly known as The History Cycle. This is when a theater company will perform every one of Shakespeare’s history plays in chronological order. Pigeon Creek is in the middle of this. We’ve already performed “Richard II,” a conflation of the two parts of “Henry IV,” and adaptation of “Henry V,” are about to take on “Henry VI”, and have “Richard III” on the schedule in the future. All together it’s an eight play run. But because of conflations, Pigeon Creek will end up performing five productions. In order to do that we are combining the three parts of Henry Six into one play.

To achieve this, it’s necessary to cut quite a bit of the text and decide which parts of the story one wants to tell. For this production, we are focusing mainly on the major plot of the battle over the crown between Henry the Sixth and Richard the Duke of York. But, one of the things that happens when you cut that much, is that you risk losing some vital information that the audience needs to follow the story.

This is where music comes in. The director for the show, David Little, has done a lot of work with musical theater in his career. When he and Executive Director Katherine Mayberry started discussing this project he had an idea to use music to tie all the parts of the story together. So he has created a “Balladeer” character to help with this. The Balladeer will introduce the story, announce characters, describe action that might be missing to fill in gaps, and generally kind of narrate for the audience to help tell the story of the play. All of this will be done musically. However, it has to be said that we are not creating “Henry Six: The Musical,” but rather using music as a device to help tell the story. So don’t expect long numbers, or specific musical theater tropes. Instead, the music may underscore a lot of the scenes, and have just a few verses of song here or there to connect the action, and be a continuous thread throughout the show.

I will be playing the Balladeer for this production, and will also be helping to arrange much of the music for the show. David has set the “period” of the play around the late 1800s and early

1900s. So much of the music will be Americana folk inspired. We are still very early in the production. I’ve set down some general song structures and simple chord progressions, but I’ll be depending on the rest of the cast to help fill in the sound. And very soon we will start putting all the music into the show. We have a very musical cast. Every single actor sings or plays a musical instrument or two. So I’m very excited to get working on this project. I hope you’ll come see the show and find out what we’ve come up with.

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