Well, exciting though the travel has been and however powerful the nostalgia that attends my return to Boulder, the real point is the work and the work has now begun. I'm three days into rehearsal now, and the emphasis has been mostly on Henry; we've read through Three Musketeers and I've blocked one of my scenes, but yesterday was an eight-hour shift on Henry VIII in which we read the first half through for the second time, and then blocked the first few scenes, up to the party at Wolsey's in which the King first meets Anne Bullen (Shakespeare's spelling of "Boleyn'). Sean Tarrant, the actor playing Henry, is an impressive figure: at 6' 6", he towers over everyone else in the company-- including me, and I'm unaccustomed to being towered over! (Though conveniently, Shakespeare's stage direction for Henry's first entrance describes him as "leaning on the Cardinal's shoulder," and that seems to be working just fine; Sean's Adam's apple is directly on a level with my eyes.) It occurred to me yesterday that his casting as the King is felicitous; all contemporary accounts describe the young Henry as a consummate Renaissance prince, handsome, energetic, athletic and uncommonly tall, with a love of sport, the chase, music and dancing. Sean is held in high esteem by his peers in the company, and carries himself like a man who knows that people look up to him-- though as he joked to me, "They don't have much choice, do they?" He seems to me to be the analogous figure at CSF to what Henry was in his own court: the center of attention, the talented, charismatic figure regarded with respect and a certain awe.
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.