In a midsummer full of outdoor Shakespearean ventures, one may clamor louder than the rest: a large-scale Henry IV, Part 1, featuring a volunteer army of more than 100 local resident “warriors,” staged in a co-production between Team Sunshine Performance Corporation and West Philadelphia’s Shakespeare in Clark Park (SCP).
SCP artistic director Marla Burkholder trusts Team Sunshine to synthesize the raucous energy of an epic battle with Henry IV’s lighter moments and deeper themes. “They dream up big, surprising moments for their audiences,” Burkholder muses.
“We believe in accessible, passionate work,” affirms Henry IV “army general” and Team Sunshine co-captain (read: co-artistic director) Ben Camp. “We want you to laugh. But we’re setting you up to get to something dark.”
Camp’s partners at the helm of Team Sunshine are Alex Torra and Makoto Hirano. Torra, who is directing Henry IV, believes that the show’s large community component will provide audiences a palpable connection to Hal, the play’s prodigal young hero (and future Henry V). “The once-great leader, Henry IV, is no longer infallible,” Torra explains. “His flawed humanity is revealed—no longer a divine representative on earth, he’s just a man desiring money and power.” But his son Hal becomes the voice of his people and of a nation—and of the audience, as well. Hence the production’s current tagline: Henry IV: Your Prince and Mine.
In the climactic Battle of Shrewsbury, Torra and Camp promise both epic, Braveheart-style battle sequences as well as aesthetically driven moments of stylized physical movement and choral song.
“Hal is the best and most reckless in us all,” Torra observes. “We connect his greatness and his potential to our own.”