The Monroe County Civic Theatre celebrates its 20th year of presenting Shakespeare in the Park with the bard's last play, Henry VIII. The play isn't often done. There are even some doubts about how much of it is by Shakespeare. But that isn't going to stop the Society for Creative Anachronism from putting it on.
Crazy For Pageantry
Director Denise Valkyrie spoke about her reasons for loving the play. Reason #1? "Well, first: because I'm crazy. I'm crazy for the political intrigue of the period. I'm crazy for the pageantry of the period and I'm crazy for the characters. Henry is an awesome character. Katherine of Aragon is an extraordinarily sympathetic character. Cardinal Wolsey is a mysterious manipulator. And those characters come together to create a pageant of life."
The Mysterious Figure
Roy Silling plays the Cardinal. "I think he's a very complicated character. If he's mysterious, some of that comes from the complexity of who he is and where he's coming from. He was a commoner who had risen through the church in a world of aristocrats, so he's in unfamiliar territory. He's incredibly skillful and successful if a bit overwhelming. He seems to believe that he has God on his side. I have a suspicion that Shakepeare, himself a commoner dealing in a world of aristocrats, may have seen himself in Cardinal Wolsey."
The Sympathetic Heroine
Zilia Estrada has been cast in the role of Henry's wife, Katherine of Aragon. "Katherine was sent to England to marry Henry's older brother Arthur, but he was sickly and died within six months. The crux of the conflict of the play is over whether the marriage was consummated. Henry was just ten years old when Arthur died and Katherine had to sit in stasis for seven years until they were in fact married. Actually, things went well, but they were unable to have a viable male heir. Henry, who'd wandered throughout their marriage, now had his sights on a divorce and Anne Bullen.
"Even in defeat, Katherine is a masterful figure. She spoke several languages, she wrote, she understood battles and politics from experiences with her own family. But throughout, she had to act the deferent woman because she wanted above all to be queen."