The Sky’s the Limit: Reflections on The Sky Festival, Part 1

posted by Dillon Heape, member of the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program class of 2014
Each year, the A.C.T. community gathers for The Sky Festival—the creation, rehearsal, and performance of a vibrant and eclectic range of work. Students, faculty, core acting company members, and artistic staff submit proposals for projects they are personally passionate about, from self-written work to movement-based interpretations of classic texts. The chosen projects are developed over two weeks of intense rehearsal and exploration, culminating in two days of lively in-house presentations.
This year, one production Thieves, a raucous spin on Shakespeare's Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2—will be presented as a full production at The Costume Shop.
The first-year Master of Fine Arts Program students were thrown into the creative chaos of the Sky Festival for the first time, and Dillon Heape stole away from rehearsal for a few moments to reflect on his experiences as part of the cast of Thieves.
Thieves in rehearsal. L to R: Tyee J. Tilghman, Rebekah Brockman,
Dillon Heape, Jessica Kitchens, Titus Tompkins, and Jason Frank. Photo by Kevin Berne.
I've never been one to get too excited about Shakespeare. I've acted and studied theater for most of my life, read and seen many of Shakespeare's plays, and even performed in a few—but I have yet to be "bit" by the bug of the Bard. And until recently, it's something I've felt pretty guilty about. I've never disliked Shakespeare—I've just never really got it, either.
Fortunately, just this week, things have started to change. I've been given the opportunity to play King Henry IV in my friend Matt Bradley's play Thieves, a rock adaptation of Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, as a part of A.C.T.'s second-annual Sky Festival. Thieves places a new, bold, interesting spin on the relationships between King Henry IV and his son Hal—and between Hal and the band of thieves he's recently joined as an act of rebellion against his father.
Until working on this play, I had always thought of Henry IV as a bleak, long-winded installation in Shakespeare's Wars of the Roses plays. The story is compelling, but the antiquated language kept me from really connecting to the heightened emotions these characters are feeling. (This is something I experience with many of Shakespeare's plays.) In Thieves, though, the characters speak in a fascinating blend of modern language and Elizabethan English—and sing and play some pretty awesome rock music—in order to convey their dark, funny, and emotionally-charged story to the audience. And I get it!.
I have to admit I was a little bewildered when Matt first cast me as the King. (If nothing else, I felt pretty undeserving. Give the part to someone who loves Shakespeare!) But now that we're knee-deep in the rehearsal process for this play, I could not be more thankful to be involved. Through rehearsing with my friends and peers, working with an apt and able young playwright who's passionate about telling Shakespeare's story in a way I can connect to, and through the age-old medium of music, I am learning more about Shakespeare than I ever thought possible. No time like the present, right?

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