By Pat Craig
PLEASANTON -- Craig Marker has the sort of career tale that either inspires drama students or makes them want to change their major.
He is one of a handful of actors who works regularly and can sleep in his own bed just about every night. It wasn't planned exactly, he said. It just kind of worked out that way.
"So far, so good," said Marker, who plays the title role in "Henry V," which opens the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival's Shakespeare in the Park season in Pleasanton's Amador Valley Community Park on Friday.
"I went to Cal State Hayward (where he graduated in 2002) and was told I should go to grad school. But I really wanted to work. I auditioned at Aurora Theatre (in Berkeley), got my first acting job, and for the next couple of years kept getting work."
Aside from a couple of stints in Southern California and England, just about all that work has been local, which allowed the Dublin native to get married, start a family and settle in Hayward.
For the record, his "Henry V" commute is about 20 minutes each way.
"My parents are still in Dublin, so this is like a homecoming for me," he said. "I graduated from Dublin High in 1998. So this is like playing on the home field."
Marker started acting at Dublin High, where he moved from a chorus part in "Antigone" to the lead in "Macbeth" in his senior year. He also produced a performance of "Waiting for Godot" at the school.
"That drew about nine people," he said. "They announced it over the morning announcements on the PA system, but kept calling it 'Go Dot.' "
Pronunciations and audience numbers have improved greatly since then. The title role in "Henry V" is a juicy one, putting the young English king through many trials as he and his men go into battle against a larger French army.
"Jokingly, I say with Henry he walks out and says, "Let's go to war with France." OK, we go to war, then it's heroic speech, doubt, heroic speech, then woo the French princess at the end," he says.
And what great heroic speeches he gets, including the St. Crispin's Day monologue -- "We few, we happy few. We band of brothers" -- and the one that begins with, "once more unto the breach."
"That's really a rallying cry to get the men to keep fighting, because they aren't doing so well," Marker says. "This is really about how Henry proves himself after a sordid past (as recounted in "Henry IV"). He proves himself worthy to be king."
The SF Shakes production is set during World War I, but is generally about all wars, and features protest songs from hundreds of years of warfare. The stage is festooned with various flags and posters, and, as Shakespeare imagined it, takes place on a stage with sparse scenery.
"Henry V" will play in the park at 4301 Black Ave at the corner of Santa Rita Road at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through July 15. Admission is free, and audience members may arrive early and bring picnics to the site.