With their plastic swords, the members of the Beautiful Kids Independent Shakespeare Company are just
another group of youngsters playing in the park.
After all, just a few minutes ago they were tossing a football around.
Now though they are contesting the future of England, the English side urged on by young King Henry V
played by Ryan Halfhill – he has a long, metal blade fitting royalty. "Once more unto the
breach!" he commands.
And indeed the Beautiful Kids troupe has charged into the theatrical breach every summer since 1997
bringing Shakespeare to the verdant environs of Bowling Green’s City Park. "Henry V" opens
Thursday at 6 p.m. with performances Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. on the Needle Hall stage.
For Beautiful Kids veteran Tyler Ward, who has both acted and directed, the productions represent
"everything that’s great about theater, just a whole bunch of people getting together to do
"I love hanging out here with my friends and doing Shakespeare for fun," said Halfhill.
For the actor, a veteran of Beautiful Kids and university productions, the play gives him a rare chance
to portray one of the richest roles in theater, the young bravado King Henry V. The play tells how
Henry, the reprobate Prince Hal of Henry IV, rises to the challenges of power and leads his outnumbered
army to a stunning victory over the French at Agincourt.
As Henry, Halfhill gets to utter two of the Bard’s most stirring speeches, the "once more unto the
beach" monologue and the "St. Crispin’s Day speech" in which he urges his "band of
brothers" to fight for glory.
Even in a rehearsal days before opening, Halfhill gives the speech his raucous all, rallying the troops
before they storm down the center aisle of the park theater.
"This is certainly one of the biggest roles I’ve put myself into," said Halfhill, who grew up
in Bradner and studied theater at Bowling Green State University.
The Beautiful Kids shows and the informal Shakespeare staged by the theater fraternity Theta Alpha Phi,
offer young actors a taste of great roles.
Halfhill said he’s even had a chance to play Othello, Shakespeare great tragic Moorish general.
"People can do things they wouldn’t normally do," he said. With Beautiful Kids that means
women taking on male roles.
Sadie Martin has no problem with the macho bluster of the Constable of France, who leads the French
troops. Heather Utsler doesn’t seem out of place as the frail yet still boastful Dauphin, the French
prince. Her speech full of outrageous praise for the Dauphin’s horse is hilarious.
The play, said director Travis Cook, has a scarcity of female roles, and one Katherine, the princess of
France, which "didn’t really serve my vision of the play" was excised along with some of the
plays’ more blatant "Tudor propaganda" which was intended to boost the image of the then
ruling royal family.
Beautiful Kids always has more women audition for the plays then men, Cook said. Still he eliminated all
but one female role to create a more "gender neutral environment within the show, where it was not
about men and women, and more about the cast presenting this point in the life of Henry V."
Yes, he conceded, this can be "at first a bit confusing to a traditional audience" but "it
does become part of the fun for the audience to accept that parts such as the Duke of Exeter (Carrie
Williams) and the Dauphin are played by women and judge the cast members on their own merits."
That the sets and props are scarce is in keeping with the pared down nature of the Shakespearean stage.
The scenery is in the poetry.
The Beautiful Kids don only the sparest of costumes. This year the cast will all wear marching T-shirts,
and over those wear articles of clothing to denote who is royalty and who is a commoner.
The Shakespeare in the park, Cook said, represents the best of community theater. "It’s about
putting on a good show and about building relationships with other cast members."
That means tossing the football before rehearsals or going en masse to the late night screening of
As a director Cook enjoys the camaraderie of the summer shows compared to those staged on campus during
the school year.
"It’s a lot more loose," he said. "There’s a lot more fun that goes into the process.
Everyone’s here because they want to be here. As a performer I like working with people who like what