Thursday, June 19, 2014

Our Road Trip to Freehold and Henry IV by Tony Pasqualini

Tony Pasqualini and Sarah Brooke will be performing in Freehold's Engaged Theatre Performance of  Henry IV. Tony was a founding partner of Freehold.  We are delighted to be hosting Sarah and Tony for the summer.

Here's a glimpse into their road trip back to Seattle ...

It's the morning of May 29th, Sarah and I have loaded up the car, said goodbye to the dogs (they know something highly unusual is afoot), and begun our 1200 mile drive from Los Angeles to Seattle. This trip has an interesting resonance with us, because thirty years ago, a few weeks after we were married, we embarked on a similar journey to Seattle -- that time from New York City, and that time with the idea of Seattle becoming our permanent home. Well, a lot of water has flowed under the proverbial bridge since. Robin Lynn Smith and I started a small acting studio above an aquarium dealer on Eastlake Avenue -- that small studio eventually grew into Freehold (where we are headed now). Sarah and I had two kids. Down the road we made another big-time life decision to move to LA. We've established ourselves in the south land now: been on a variety of TV shows, done a lot of theatre. I've become a playwright -- with five plays so far to my name. Sarah has developed two brilliant cabaret shows. Our kids are all grown up, and finding their respective ways in the world, and, well, a bunch of other stuff too numerous to mention.

But this morning we are leaving our home, our dogs, our well-entrenched life and are headed back to beautiful Seattle to participate in Freehold's Engaged Theatre tour (this year, a compilation of Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, adapted by Reggie Jackson). I've been up twice in the past several years -- playing King Lear in 2012 and Shylock a few years earlier, but this is Sarah's first extended time back to the Northwest since we left fifteen years ago.

When I get my almost yearly call from Robin Lynn Smith, usually in November, to ask if I'd like to come up next summer to work on her next Shakespeare project, I will (and Robin will attest to this) go through my usual hemming and hawing -- it's a long time to be away from home; there are opportunities in LA I'll have to forgo; various complications, etc, etc. But, alas, I'm an actor. The theatre is my first love. And how does an actor turn down playing Shylock, Lear, Henry IV? Well, generally you don't. And with the added incentive of Sarah being here playing Mistress Quickly and Westmoreland, this years tour proves irresistible.

I'm not much of a long distance driver, so we make a bit of a trip of it. Stop at Carmel-by-the-Sea -- pretty nice, I must admit, though a bit ostentatious. Next is Ashland. We catch the Shakespeare Festival  production of Cocoanuts. The first act is an hour and forty minutes which was plenty for us -- it had been a grueling drive that day. The next night we spend in Portland and get to see our old friend Jayne Taini play Meg in a wonderful production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Sunday we arrive in Seattle, settle into our digs and by 9am the next day we are in Belltown at Freehold getting to work.

Henry IV is to my mind one of Shakespeare's most resonant and accessible plays. The plot follows the history of rebellion against Henry by his former allies Worcester and Northumberland, led by Northumberland's warrior son, Hotspur, culminating in the battle of Shrewsbury, where Hotspur is soundly defeated. But the heart of the play centers around Hal, the Prince of Wales, Henry's son and next in line to the throne. Much to the consternation of his father, Hal has taken to spending his time at the Boar's-head Tavern in Eastcheap, carousing with a drunk and desultory knight, John Falstaff and various other unsavory characters. This tug-of-war for Hal's affections between his 'two fathers' embodies the true dramatic arc of the play. Shakespeare has created a searingly complex relationship between Prince Hal and his father. One that easily stands alongside Arthur Miller's classic father/son struggle in Death of a Salesman. And as both a father and son myself, I can attest to the emotional wounds this play so artfully and truthfully explores -- the great love that's felt but not shown; the deep and often irrational disappointment; the inability to live up to the each others expectations; the need to challenge and control; the sense of failure and loss; the fear that the gulf opened between you will never be bridged. Well, Shakespeare gives you all this. He does it in a few scenes. He does it with some of his most gorgeous and poignant poetry. And he does it with truth and specificity. I get to play these scenes with the amazing Reggie Jackson. An actor can't really ask for much more.

Tony Pasqualini and Sarah Brooke will be seen performing in The Flower of England's Face: William Shakespeare's HENRY IV on June 30th at 6:30 pm at Luther Burbank Park (Mercer Island), July 12 - 20 (no performance July 15th) at UW's Penthouse Theatre. Tickets are Pay What You Can.  For more information and to reserve your ticket:

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