Harlequin Productions brings Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’ to State Theater

Contributing writerSeptember 27, 2013 

You might say that Harlequin Productions’ Scot Whitney believes in fighting a good fight.

Good fight scenes are critical to a play, said the director, whose “Henry V” opens Thursday.

“It’s like punctuation in a paragraph,” said Whitney, Harlequin’s managing artistic director. “If you get the punctuation right, it really helps. If you leave out the punctuation, it changes things.

“Keeping fight scenes crisp and clear and making it look good and work the way that you want it to from every seat in the house is really important.”

That’s where fight choreographer Bob Macdougall of Seattle comes in.

Fight scenes are particularly important in Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” which centers on the Battle of Agincourt and has been seen both as glorifying war and condemning it.

Whitney is giving a twist to the play, which tells such a sweeping story of war that any theatrical production can only hint at its full scope. “It’s an epic play,” he said.

The conceit of this production is that the play is being performed by a ragtag troupe of traveling actors.

Whitney directed “Henry V” the same way in 1998, when Harlequin was performing at the Black Box at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts. This production features the same pageant wagon but a completely different cast, including Jason Marr of Seattle as Henry; Daniel Flint, who played “Richard III” last season; and Harlequin regulars Christian Doyle, Russ Holm and Maggie Lofquist.

The eight actors play about 50 characters and make frequent costume changes.

All except Marr play multiple roles.

“The staging is very complicated,” Macdougall said. “The actors are switching back and forth whether they are playing a Frenchman or an Englishman during the Battle of Agincourt.

“The fights are all three or four people at a time. It’s not unlike in a film, where the camera moves from skirmish to skirmish. You do it on stage by running the actors in and out.”

While the fight choreography is a big part of “Henry V,” Whitney actually seeks Macdougall’s expertise for almost every show he directs.

“I’ve directed more than 80 plays, and Bob Macdougall has worked on all but two of them,” Whitney said.

“He’s an amazing fight director. I bring him in even if somebody just has to trip on the stairs or fall down or slap somebody across the face.

“Here we’ve got four big broadsword fights involving all eight actors. It’s a lot of fun.”

The director promises that the play will appeal even to those who might not normally go for Shakespeare.

“It is very clear and really exciting and active,” he said. “It moves really quickly. There’s some really funny stuff, and then there’s the famous wooing scene near the end where he woos Princess Katherine.

“And it has a wonderful happy ending.” ‘Henry V’

What: Harlequin Productions presents the Shakespearean history play about a young king who ascends the British throne during the Hundred Years’ War.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Oct. 5, plus Oct. 9-12, 17-19 and 24-26; 2 p.m. Oct. 6, 13 and 20

Where: State Theater, 202 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia

Tickets: $32 general admission, $28 for seniors and military, $20 for students. Discounted rush tickets are available a half-hour prior to curtain. For the Oct. 9 performance, pay what you can.

Additional information: 360-786-0151 or harlequinproductions.org

Also: Oct. 11 is Ladies’ Night Out, with free Champagne and truffles for women from 7-7:30 p.m. Then Oct. 18 is Pride Night, with free snacks and beverages from 7-7:30 p.m. These special events are offered the second and third Fridays of each run.

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