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BWW Previews: HENRY V at Stage Left Productions & the Irish Cultural Center

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Ronin Bends Gender Roles, Military Themes in Reset of Shakespearean Play

Rachelle Dart is a triple threat: acting, dancing and stage combat.

"Throughout my youth, I did martial arts," recalls Dart. "When I was 11, I started to do theatre. When I found stage combat, it was like this merger of both of these things that I really love."

Now she is starring as Henry of Monmouth in Shakespeare's HENRY V, Nov. 5-7 at Stage Left Productions in Surprise and on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, at the Irish Cultural Center in Phoenix.

HENRY V chronicles events before and after the Battle of Agincourt during the Hundred Years' War. This version, the first live production by Ronin Theatre Company since the pandemic, is set during the 20-year U.S. War in Afghanistan.

Director Keath Hall is exploring modern military through classical text with the help of dramaturg Ryan Wentzel who served in the U.S Marine Corps Reserve in Helmand Province.

"I am fortunate in my cast," Hall says. "They are supportive, talented and full of energy. They work to bring this show into a modern ideal with a furious pace. Our goal is to create connections of experience to a warrior culture that spans human existence."

The cast is rehearsing with traditional stage weapons until final props are ready. "Guns will be represented by steel pipes with a bayonet tip," says Dart. A bayonet in Afghanistan? Indeed.

As a member of the Society of American Fight Directors, Dart has been training in stage combat since 2016. "I enjoy using knife, but single sword is fun too. It's a style like during the time of Errol Flynn -- large...flashy...humorous.

"I got to play Robin Hood in my sophomore year of college, and we used all types of weapons: broadsword, Saracen blade, bow and arrow, knife, bow staff -- unarmed combat as well."

She also played Benvolio in ROMEO & JULIET at Southwest Shakespeare Company. "I did a knife fight against a sword," recalls Dart. "That was really challenging because my stage combat partner had a three-foot weapon, and I had a five-inch weapon!

"I don't remember if we changed the pronouns for Benvolio, but we Henry will be a woman in this production, so we're using she/her pronouns."

There are three fight choreographers in the cast: Dart, Hall and Alex Kass (Dauphin). She describes the fight scene between Henry and Dauphin as an "awesome, collaborative session."

Dart adds, "This show is going to have a lot of combat and gallows humor. It's going to be very engaging and entertaining."


Hot To Get Tickets

See for yourself. Reservations are available by scrolling down the Stage Left homepage stageleftaz.com and on the Irish Cultural Center webpage azirish.org/performances. A suggested donation of $20 is encouraged and there will be a cash bar at the ICC.


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