By Mary Boyle
O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
These are the opening lines to one of Shakespeare's most beloved histories; the final play of the tetralogy that begins with Richard II and continues with Henry IV, Part I and Henry IV, Part II, in which we meet the future king as Prince Harry. After his father's death, Henry assumes the throne of England and leads an army to claim France as his own at the famous Battle of Agincourt. A tale as epic as can be, played by a company nationally renowned for their excellence in performing the Bard: this is Young Company's Henry V.
The Young Company is the advanced, college-level actor training program at First Stage Theater Academy, open to high school students who are serious about their training and development as actors. Young Company has a strong focus on Shakespeare; they produce two public shows with First Stage each season, and one of them is always by the Bard. Each year, Young Company takes a team to compete at the Utah Shakespeare Festival High School Competition, and they never fail to bring home awards. This past Fall, they won Sweepstakes First Place and Ensemble First Place in the Essex Division. Now in its fourteenth season, Milwaukee's own Matt Daniels was named Director of the company this year, while former Director and the founder of Young Company, John Maclay, is now the Director of Artistic Development.
The Young Company cast for HENRY V includes: Bree Kazinski (as Constable of France/Ensemble) from Dousman; Casey Dobson (as Duke of Bourbon/Ensemble), Emily Repetti (as Fluellen/Ely) and Megan Watson (as Chorus/Ensemble) from Wauwatosa; Chantae Miller (as Katherine/LeFer) from Waukesha; Dakota Komorowski (as King Charles VI of France/Ensemble) from Kansasville; Elliott Brotherhood (as King Henry V) from Mequon; Eloise Field (as Boy/Ensemble) from Oconomowoc; Jacob Badovski (as Duke of Exeter) and Jennie Babisch (as Pistol/Canterbury) from Milwaukee; Kate Ketelhohn (as Duke of Gloucester) from Cedarburg; Kate Lepianka (as Duke of Orleans/Ensemble) from Grafton; Kayla Salter (as Hostess Quickly/Gower) from Germantown; Mary Jensik (as Dauphin/Nym) from Greenfield; Molly Boyle (as Alice/Ensemble) from Port Washington; and Sylvie Arnold (as Bardolph/Williams) from Hubertus.
Elliott Brotherhood, a Senior at Pathways who plays Henry, hails from Mequon, and was in the Young Company's production of The Skin of Our Teeth earlier this season, as well as Animal Farm last season, where he made his Young Company debut. When asked about how it felt to play Henry, Elliott said, "It's a monumental challenge, and one that I'm incredibly humbled to tackle and be a part of with so many talented actors. Under Matt Daniel's direction, and the support of an awesome group of people, it's been a ton of fun."
Molly Boyle, a homeschooled Freshman from Port Washington, makes her Young Company debut playing the Duke of Bedford, Captain Jamy, and Alice, a lady-in-waiting to Katherine (played by Chantae Miller). "It has been a brilliantly fun time working with the cast and crew of Henry V, and I enjoy working and playing with so many talented actors and wonderful people," Molly said. "Henry V is complex, and everyone has done such an amazing job bringing it to life."
Kate Lepianka, another homeschooler from Grafton, and Kate Ketelhohn of Cedarburg, who is a Freshman at Kettle Moraine Lutheran School, expressed that being a part of Henry V brought them much closer to their Young Company classmates, as well as helping them to understand what Shakespeare was trying to say.
In the opening to this play, Shakespeare apologizes for the unworthiness of a mere stage to tell such a grand tale; instead, he asks the audience to use their imaginations. Going with that theme, Director Matt Daniels went with a stark, modern set with minimal props, forcing the audience to do as the Bard encouraged. With wooden dowels for weapons and the exchange of a hat, scarf, or jacket to denote lightning-quick and on-stage character and scene changes, the play charges along to a refreshingly modern, yet incredibly fitting, playlist of songs, and 2 1/2 hours pass remarkably quickly. Perhaps more than any of Shakespeare's works, Henry V feels very contemporary, even with its original language left intact, so that this play feels completely at home, rather than at odds, in this twenty-first century setting. Once again, the Young Company nails it: powerful, moving, funny, romantic; this is must-see Shakespeare.
Henry V runs through March 24th at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, located at 325 W. Walnut Street in Milwaukee. Tickets are $14 and are available online at www.FirstStage.org or through the First Stage Box Office at (414) 267-2961. This production is recommended for ages 12 and up.
About First Stage
Celebrating its 30th anniversary in the 2016-2017 season, First Stage is one of the nation’s leading theaters for young audiences and families. First Stage touches hearts, engages minds, and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences for young people and families through professional theater productions that inspire, enlighten, and entertain. Its Theater Academy, the nation’s largest high-impact theater training program for young people, fosters life skills through stage skills and serves over 2,100 students each year. As Wisconsin’s leader in arts-integrated education in schools, First Stage’s dynamic Theater in Education programs use theater to promote active learning throughout the curriculum, serving over 20,000 students throughout southeastern Wisconsin each year. In 2012, First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. First Stage is the recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Eureka Award in 2013 and 2015, recognizing creativity and innovation in business, education, and the arts. First Stage is a member of TYA/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, Theatre Wisconsin, and Milwaukee Arts Partners, and is a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).