Something new to me in the new regime at Boulder is the idea that Henry is to be performed indoors. The University Theatre building was already here in the sixties-- though It's doubled in size since then, with far more office and shop space and two gorgeous, spacious studios for rehearsal-- but the Shakespeare Festival is now using it for performances. In addition to the traditional three shows performed outside in the venerable Mary Rippon amphitheatre, where I did all my early Shakespeare acting, there are now two indoor shows scheduled as well, and Henry VIII is one of them; so that, a little strangely, my only outdoor performances won't be in Shakespeare at all, but in Dumas. But it appears that Henry, which after all probably had a run at the Blackfriars in Shakespeare's own time, is going to do very nicely indoors. The play's emphasis is on subtle political maneuvering and intrigue rather than battles and physical action, and the greater intimacy of the 400-plus-seat indoor space may be more conducive to the kind of subtlety we're striving for than the larger Mary Rippon. I like the set design-- there's a big, broad central staircase that comes swooping around a curve upstage to disgorge the action at center, and that blind entrance suggests intrigue and eavesdropping that seems appropriate to the jockeying for position and politic manipulation that constitute much of the play's action.
These thoughts led me to an insight last night that is hardly earth-shaking, but was the first time I'd articulated the distinction to myself: that Shakespeare wrote nine medieval histories and only a single one set in the Renaissance-- this one. Given that, it's hardly surprising that it should be so different in form and style to all the others I've done before.