After a July run in The Brick’s “Shakespeare in the Theater” festival, This England is extending for four more performances August 25-28 at our old home, IRT Theater. As we prepare for this second run, we're sitting down with our actors to find out why they love performing Shakespeare, what their favorite moments from the show are, and (most importantly), who they side with in the Wars of the Roses.
Next up is Heather Lee Rogers. This is her first adventure with Strange Harbor! She plays King Richard II, the Earl of Worcester, Sir Thomas Erpingham, the Marquess of Suffolk, Prince Edward, and Queen Elizabeth.
Strange Harbor: What do you most enjoy about watching and performing Shakespeare?
Heather Lee Rogers: The beautiful, powerful poetry of the language! It lands punches, and it's so timeless and profoundly moving. He was just so damn smart about what makes people tick. As an actor, when I get the chance to speak his speeches I feel like heart wants to explode out of my body with joy.
SH: Why is it important to do these plays now? Why all together?
HLR: How power travels between leaders is, of course, relevant in an election year. And it's important to remember in a modern democracy that there should be diversity in who our leaders are (which is illustrated by our casting).
SH: What discovery in rehearsal most surprised you?
HLR: Doing all of these plays together (even abridged) is AMAZING!! I have learned so much about how these stories connect and who's who! It was also fascinating to learn about the battle of Agincourt, the conditions, the strategy, etc. In an early reading I thought I was clever by giving Erpingham a funny old man voice, making him a cute old knight. Then I learned he was a TOTAL BADASS! His military career went back to Edward the Black Prince and in the battle of Agincourt HE was the commander of the long bow archers (i.e. the force that won the battle)!
SH: Which of your characters do you feel the most connected to? Why?
HLR: Elizabeth. I was born to play Shakespeare's angriest women. However, in an early reading, by random virtue of where I was sitting, I got to read Richard II, whom I'd never imagined playing or given any thought to. I really surprised myself by how connected to him I felt, just reading it cold. Leave it to Shakespeare to make his kings so poignantly flawed and human!
SH: What has been the hardest challenge in working on this play?
HLR: The lines are no joke and I play six characters. We all had SO MUCH MATERIAL to get solid/specific within a short amount of time. So that was the challenge of rehearsal. In performance the challenge has been trusting all that work (eek!) and remembering to play and let it fly...
SH: What first drew you to this project?
HLR: I was working with Zach on another project, and my ears perked up when I overheard that he wanted to cast it so that every actor got to play a king.
SH: Do you have a favorite line or moment in the play?
HLR: So many! But Favorite Burn: "Talk not of France sith thou hast lost it all" –Earl of Warwick to King Henry VI.
SH: York or Lancaster?
HLR: My characters are mostly Lancasters and the Yorkies kill me several times (and kill loved ones of my characters, those bastards), so definitely Lancaster!