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Students shine in intimately set production

Photo courtesy of Mikki Schaffner

Photo courtesy of Mikki Schaffner

Michael Topmiller, Staff writer

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The Department of Theatre and Dance concluded its second play of the season this past weekend in front of three straight sold-out audiences, capping off yet another successful production for the department.
“Royal Gambit” was the production, a historic play detailing the numerous wives of King Henry VIII who severed England’s ties with the Roman Catholic Church in order to justify his philandering ways.
Directed by the department’s own Sandra Forman, the play had only seven actors, King Henry VIII and his six wives, which complemented the small, intimate atmosphere of the Stauss Theatre.

Forman did an excellent job staging the play in front of the three-sided audience set up that this particular theatre offers. In addition, she received superb performances from her seven actors, particularly from senior Seth Wallen who played King Henry and junior Cynthea Mercado who played Katarina of Aragon.

Mercado plays the Spanish princess whose marriage to Henry solidified an alliance between Spain and England, however her inability to produce a male heir causes Henry to divorce her at the beginning of the play, an act that initiated England’s separation from Catholicism.

“This was the role I really wanted this year,” Mercado said. “I enjoy playing historical figures like [Katarina of Aragon], there’s so much to study about her life.” Her performance certainly demonstrated her interest in this role as Catherine (Katarina) bitterly criticizes Henry’s illogical ways and ultimately has the last laugh by the end of the play.

Mercado’s character utters perhaps one of the most critical lines to Henry during Act I, Scene III as the king barges into her garden and tries wooing Katarina’s maid. Katarina states, “For you can’t see me because you are too enlightened.”

Throughout the play, King Henry’s intellectual and modern ideas lead him down hypocritical and selfish paths that make him forget the love he has for Katarina.
After divorcing Katarina, he beheads two of his “unfertile” mistresses, loathes the sight of “the Lutheran,” begets a male heir with another and uses the last two to occupy his old and empty bed. By the power of God and his conscious he never has the audacity to admit his wrong doings.

“Royal Gambit” aptly ended its production two days prior to the presidential election, a time when these types of contemporary political “kings” utter similar rhetoric to justify their own actions. “This play certainly has a contemporary element to it,” Mercado said.

In addition to the acting and directing, the staging and costumes were equally impressive. The simple stage contained a 20-foot cross to indicate the omnipotence of God as well as some wooden benches that help accompany the script. The costumes gave the play its 16th century setting as the wives wore plump dresses and King Henry pranced around in his tights and stately cloak.

Junior theatre major Laura Hayes watched this past Saturday’s production. “I liked it…the acting, staging and costumes were good,” Hayes said. Hayes, herself, has her connections with the cast and noted the superb performances by Wallen and Mercado.

Hayes also said she loved the historical element to the play and the philosophical undertones in it. “This was a play that had an ideological agenda, and I liked the way it was portrayed.”

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Students shine in intimately set production