CEDAR CITY — One of the most ambitious theatrical projects in Utah right now is the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s effort to produce every Shakespeare play over the course of 12 seasons. Part of this effort—called Complete the Canon—is to mount every history play in the chronological order of the events in the script.

Four of Shakespeare’s ten English history plays (Richard II, Henry IV Part One, Henry IV Part Two, and Henry V) form a series that chronicles the rise, reign, and death of Henry IV and the ascension and early reign of his son, Henry V. Called the Henriad, the Utah Shakespeare Festival currently has a production of the third play in the series playing. What makes these productions interesting, though, is the decision to cast the same actors as Henry IV and Henry V for each play. UTBA sat down with Sam Ashdown (Henry V) and Larry Bull (Henry IV) to discuss the challenges and rewards of playing the same character across three plays.

Among the insightful things that Ashdown and Bull have to say:

  • “Henry goes from being an earl . . . and he winds up taking over the crown. He goes from this optimistic, political juggernaut machine just moves forward with very little reflection . . . to someone who begins to reflect . . . and becomes more panicked and introspective and nervous.” —Larry Bull, discussing the changes that occur in Henry IV over the course of three plays.
  • “In Part Two, the world is changing around Hal. The world—the country—is sick. The country is sick. . . . Hal is in this transition phase between the kid that he was and knowing that he has to be king and save this country.” —Sam Ashdown, on the growth that Henry V experiences.
  • “Henry’s repentance at the end of Part Two, his coming to terms with real guilt. . . . He doesn’t talk about guilt in Part One. And in Part Two . . . there’s a real reckoning with him.” —Larry Bull, explaining what he has learned about his character by doing all four plays.
  • “They are history plays, . . . but they’re so personal, and in my view there is so much about fathers and sons and stepping into responsibility, that they’re incredibly relateable.” —Sam Ashdown, talking about what an American audience can enjoy in a play about English history.
  • “Enjoy the work. Don’t worry about things you may miss. Enjoy the things that you catch, and give it a shot. . . . and trust that it will be a fascinating experience” —Larry Bull, giving advice to people who are going to attend their first Shakespeare play.
  • “It is a series. There is a larger story being told, but these are also standalone plays. Nobody should feel that having not seen Part One that they shouldn’t find something to enjoy in Part Two . . .”—Larry Bull, explaining the nature of the relationships among the plays in the Henriad.

Watch the full interview by clicking the link above.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival production of Henry IV, Part Two plays various days at either 2 PM or 8 PM at the Adams Shakespearean Theatre on the campus of Southern Utah University. Tickets are $32-73. For more information, visit www.bard.org.