First Rehearsal: Bring Down the House

Sixteen actresses, two parts, one epic experience. Bring Down the House thunders on stage in a rotating repertory production January 25-March 12, 2017 at the Center Theatre. Seattle Shakespeare Company in collaboration with upstart crow collective presents a two-part, all-female adaption of Shakespeare’s Henry VI plays that portray the power struggle for the crown and the rule of England.

“This is the most ambitious show that we’ve ever done,” said Artistic Director George Mount at the first rehearsal for Bring Down the House.  “Seattle Shakespeare Company has been invested in this show for a very long time, in no small part because I’m a huge fan of upstart crow collective.” Upstart crow collective is a group dedicated to producing classical works with all-female casts for contemporary audiences. Members of upstart crow approached Mount two years ago about helping to produce an adaption of Shakespeare’s Henry VI parts 1, 2 & 3.  The adaption was developed through workshops and readings with some support from Seattle Shakespeare Company. “I really believe in the mission of upstart crow,” said Mount. “We’ve got a great opportunity to not only tell these great stories really well, but to hear how the female voice helps us to transcend and elevate Shakespeare’s universality. I feel humbled and proud to be able to make opportunities like this happen. I cannot wait to hear your voices ring loud through this show.”

From battlefield betrayals to royal court deceptions, Bring Down the House focuses on the scheming noble families of the houses of York and Lancaster as they jockey over who will wear the crown of England.  “I love the history plays,” said Rosa Joshi who co-adapted and directs Bring Down the House. “I love them for the intrigue, the characters and the intertwining of the political and personal that I think really resonates for a contemporary audience.”

Shakespeare’s story of King Henry VI portrays England’s War of the Roses as it split a country in two along family and political lines. “For me, the animosity between warring factions in Henry VI reminds me of the polarization in modern day American politics. The idea that we deeply entrench depending on the rose we wear, or the political flag we wave,” said Joshi. “I’m struck how the history plays capture the cynicism of leaders who are driven by very personal ambitions. These ambitions have the brutal consequences on everyday people, on families, on women and children.  At its core, Henry VI is about a massive civil war fought for personal political goals.”

Bring Down the House highlights an all-female ensemble of 16 actresses playing multiple roles.  The production features Taiko drumming composed by William Satake Blauvelt to depict battle scenes and choreography by Alice Gosti.