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Henry VIII or "All is True"

 

Production Team

Director.....................................................................................................................................Hailey Pearce

Stage Manager..................................................................................................................Analise Toone

Assistant Stage Manager.....................................................................................Scarlet Frishman

Dramaturg.................................................................................................................Fawzia M. Istrabadi

Costume Designers........................................................................................................Alaina Smith & 

                                                                                                             Sarah Scarborough

Props.........................................................................................................................................Caroline Lyons

Set & Lighting Designer.......................................................................................Johnny Williams III

Music Director.........................................................................................................................Pete Sheldon

Intimacy & Dance Choreographer......................................................................Margaret Levin

Publicity and Marketing……………………………………………………………………………....Fawzia M. Istrabadi, 

  Mikaela Hanrahan, Shawn Passero, 

      Fallon Smyl, Johnny Williams III & 

      Sarah Scarborough

Special Thanks

JP Scheidler, Sara Topham, Jess Snellings, Marie Lupia, Amy Wert, Tori Wright, Mili Koncelik and the American Shakespeare Center
 

Cast

Henry VIII, Cardinal Campeius, Second Gentleman....................................Pete Sheldon

 

Cardinal Wolsey, Duke of Suffolk, First Gentleman..........................Johnny Williams III

 

Queen Katherine, Old Lady, Thomas Lovell....................................................Caroline Lyons

 

Duke of Norfolk, Earl of Surrey, Griffith........................................................Sarah Scarbourgh

  

Anne Bolyen, Duke of Buckingham, Lord Chamberlain.............................Alaina Smith


 

Director’s Note

 

The court of Henry VIII has an iconic and fascinating status within western culture. This court, full of its scandals and drama, still entices audiences today. Adaptations of this gripping period in England have included raunchy historical dramas, a stage musical, and, although a little earlier, Henry VIII by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, which is one of the last plays Shakespeare wrote. I do admit that I felt the daunting reputation of this story of Tudor England. Henry, Anne, Katherine, and Wolsey not only come with their own reputation but the historical notoriety imposed on them. 
 

It then dawned on me that this is an adaptation on top of an adaptation, as any small scale would be. With 5 actors playing all of the roles within the show, a mix of contemporary and Tudor fashion , and the addition of modern music, this production aims to recenter the characters within their own play. 

By bringing these characters to life within the actors, we then find the wonder, intrigue, and vulnerability that still resonates with audiences of the twenty-first century. If Shakespeare embellished the history of these people, 

then why can’t we? Allowing for Katherine and Anne to boldly reclaim their own narratives. Allowing Henry to play the tyrant but gradually unveiling the painstaking motives for his own actions. Allowing for Wolsey to be the red-caped Icarus who aspired above his place and falls, in his words, “Like Lucifer.” And all the mad-capped, quite literally, characters in between. 

With that said, I hope you enjoy the messy, complicated, but ultimately human story we bring to you in Shakespeare and Fletcher’s Henry VIII or All is True.

                                                                                                      -Hailey Pearce

 

Dramaturgy Note

"What Even is True?"

Like many of Shakespeare’s other History plays, Henry VIII cares very little for historical accuracy. In a play that spans roughly 15 years of Henry’s reign, at least half the characters should be dead by Act 3 and yet they survive to see the christening of the future Queen Elizabeth. The authors for seemingly no reason changed names of major players of the Henrician Court, switched around who had beef with whom, and created the most neutral Anne Boleyn that has ever and will ever be written, all while relying heavily on the understanding that their audience and actors would simply know the story they were seeing unfold. 

As we began to wade through all of this back in June, Hailey was always clear about wanting to explore with the idea of what is the truth and this would eventually morph into the idea of exploring each character’s individual truth as they wake up and present themselves to the audience. We wanted to be rooted in the real history of these people while not being completely beholden to it. Henry VIII’s court was filled with gossip and rumors, many of which we still see alive and well in cultural understanding today (No, Anne Boleyn did not have a sixth finger). 

We were also both eager in finding ways to uplift the female voices of the play. With the gorgeously written Queen Katherine, it was somewhat easy. She sweeps into the first scene and refuses to let Wolsey simply run the show. Her speech at her trial is based very heavily on the words the real Katherine of Aragon used in June 1529 at the Blackfriars. The cast beautifully devised Katherine’s dream sequence as an overview of her life, which further highlighted the heart wrenching truth of Katherine’s story. However, Anne Boleyn, as ever, was a more elusive figure. 

 

Historically, we actually know very little about Anne Boleyn. There’s much to speculate on and there’s of course a lot of what people said about her, but with very little left of Anne’s own thoughts and feelings and nearly 500 years of rumor surrounding her, she’s a much more difficult figure to dig into. This, combined with the fact that in Henry VIII she only appears in three scenes, made the task of finding a way to uplift Anne’s voice quite difficult. Hailey and I discussed many different options, but one day, as we discussed the final scene where Thomas Cranmer gives a speech proclaiming what a brilliant leader the infant Elizabet will become, Hailey turned to me and said “Can we just make it Anne giving this speech instead of Cranmer?”  Despite this very obviously not being anywhere near the truth, it allows Anne a moment of triumph similar to Katherine’s. It is also a nod to a trend in contemporary popular media about the Tudors of Anne seemingly knowing Elizabeth is destined for greatness. From a ghost in The Tudors alongside Katherine of Aragon and Jane Seymour telling a dying Henry the fates of their children, to Genevieve Bujold in Anne of the Thousand Days proclaiming “My Elizabeth shall be queen and my blood will have been well spent.” There is something storytellers love in giving Anne Boleyn this moment of prophecy. So why should Shakespeare’s Anne miss out?

 

The story of Henry, Katherine, Anne, and the rest of the Tudor Court will continue to fascinate audiences and storytellers alike. We hope this production both gives voice to the real history, and also leaving the audience asking “what even is true?”

                                                                                                    -Fawzia M. Istrabadi

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