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Shakespeare Takes Flight in “Henry V (On Trapeze)”

This scene from "Henry V (on Trapeze)" depicts the death of Falstaff and features (from left) Eileen Little, Jenn Suchanec, Lucius Robinson, and Jade Arnold (photo by The Right Image Photography, Inc.)

This scene from "Henry V (on Trapeze)" depicts the death of Falstaff and features (from left) Eileen Little, Jenn Suchanec, Lucius Robinson, and Jade Arnold (photo by The Right Image Photography, Inc.)

Burning Coal Theatre Company of Raleigh, NC and the aerial theater company Fight or Flight of New York City are teaming up to stage Henry V (On Trapeze), a high-flying production of the circa 1599 English history play by Elizabethan dramatist and poet William Shakespeare (1564-1616), on Dec. 1-4, 8-11, and 15-18 in Burning Coal Theatre at the Murphey School, near the Historic Oakwood Section of downtown Raleigh.

“I am the co-artistic director of Fight or Flight, a New York City-based aerial theatre company,” says director Steven Cole Hughes. “Jerome Davis (artistic director of Burning Coal) heard about our 2010 production of Richard II, and called me and asked me if I wanted to come to Burning Coal and direct Henry V. I had never worked on Henry V before, but I love Shakespeare’s history plays, particularly the Richard II to Henry V cycle. And I thought of a fun way to put Henry V up in the air.”

He adds, “When putting a play on the low-flying trapeze, the first question I ask is: why? How would trapeze enhance this story? Henry V is a celebration. So, the first thing that jumped out at me is when the Chorus says ‘Now all the youth of England are on fire.’ Our way into the play then is as a group of English youth (who all happen to know how to do trapeze) who are getting together to party, to celebrate Henry V, and how awesome it is to be English, and not French.”

When the curtain rises on Henry V (on Trapeze), Steven Cole Hughes, says, “Henry V (Dan Loeser) is the young King of England. In order to prove he is no longer the playboy of his youth, and to unite his country in hard times, he considers war with France. After the Prince Dauphin of France (Whitney Madren) sends Henry an insulting message, Henry chooses war. Along with his trusted nobles, some of Henry’s old drinking buddies set out for France as well — a sign of his appeal to Englishmen of all classes. In France, the English army prevails against overwhelming numbers, Henry woos the Princess of France (Eileen Little), and everyone dances on trapezes.”

In addition to director Steven Cole Hughes, the joint Burning Coal Theatre Company and Fight or Flight creative team for Henry V (on Trapeze) includes producers Jerry Davis and Simmie Kastner, aerial choreographer Eileen Little, technical director Marcus Morphew, lighting designer Chris Popowich, costume designer Karen Williams, properties manager Whitney Madren, and stage manager Andy Hayworth. The show also features original music by Jessica Jackson.

“Three people from Fight or Flight are working on this production at Burning Coal: myself as director, Dan Loeser as Henry V, and Eileen Little as choreographer and playing the roles of Chorus and Katherine,” notes director Steven Cole Hughes. “Our enormous challenge was to teach low-flying trapeze to people who had little or no experience with it, rehearse a Shakespeare play, and learn original music — all in four weeks. But we’ve done it!”

On Nov. 23rd, Hughes told Triangle Theater Review, “The cast has been amazing. They’ve worked so hard. They’re all in trapeze fighting shape, their lines are memorized. They’re singing and dancing and acting and flying with reckless abandon, and we’ve still got a week to go before opening…. I’m so proud of all of them.”

When this “modern-day dance party” opens, director Steven Cole Hughes warns, “Some audience members will need to watch their heads!”

Burning Coal Theatre Company and Fight or Flight present HENRY V (ON TRAPEZE) at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1-3, 2 p.m. Dec. 4, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8-10, 2 p.m. Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 15-17, and 2 p.m. Dec. 18 in Burning Coal Theatre at the Murphey School, 224 Polk St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.

TICKETS: $20 ($15 students, seniors 65+, and active-duty military personnel), except pay-what-you-can performance on Dec. 4th, $10 Thursdays, and $5 Student Rush Tickets (sold at the door, 5 minutes before curtain).

BOX OFFICE: 919/834-4001 or http://www.etix.com/.

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919/834-4001.

SHOW/SEASON: http://www.burningcoal.org/season.html.

PRESENTERS:

Burning Coal Theatre Company: http://www.burningcoal.org/.

Fight or Flight: http://www.fightorflighttheater.com/.

VENUE: http://www.burningcoal.org/venue.html.

DIRECTIONS: http://www.burningcoal.org/third/murphey.html.

NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 2 p.m. Dec. 4th performance.

OTHER LINKS:

The Play: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_V_(play) (Wikipedia).

The Playwright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare (Wikipedia).

The Director: http://www.fightorflighttheater.com/Fight_or_Flight/SteveBio.html (Fight or Flight).

The Director’s Blog: http://stevencolehughes.blogspot.com/.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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