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An interview with a Queen Margaret

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Then, there was in Part 1 when Gregory asked for a line ...
Oh, yes.
... and the line was “She is…”
“She’s beautiful. She IS beautiful!”

Did he do that every night?

No. He truly went off at that moment, but if you were going to keep a prithee for the amount of time that we have the prompter, that would be the one to do. Like sometimes there are just those moments that are golden that happen either by accident or on purpose. That one was great, I remember that night very specifically, too, because it was great. “Prithee: She is beautiful. She IS beautiful!” [Laughs] It was great. Yep, that would be a keeper if you wanted to.

I feel like we have banded together over these plays in a way that’s really interesting. There are a couple of us who have been in all three parts but not very many, and not very many of us getting to stay on one side of the rose the whole time. Johnston was very upset that he had to switch to the white rose at the end of this one.

I think we’re all invested. We’re certainly invested in these plays, and we’ve set up our own themes. We’ve done the Star Wars things [before each play, the actors operate a giant scroll on which is written the background to the story in a kingdom far away and long ago while other actors play the “Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)” from the original Star Wars movie]. That was all us, and we decided to continue to do that. We’ve really come together as a group of actors directing themselves but thinking of the whole of the play, and I think every one in these plays really loves the plays. And I think that shows. It showed in the amount of time we were willing to spend on extra things like making that big banner that scrolls up, and the boys on horns learning how to play the “Imperial Death March.” These are things that take time. And we also had a frickin’ play to put up and we’re giving ourselves all this extra work and making heads and making those banners. But that’s because we’re all so invested in these plays, and we so believe in them, and it’s really exciting to see that. It’s harder for us to rally around a play like Look about You or A Trick to Catch the Old One, which are fun plays. But the sense of group is different with the Henry plays, and I think it’s because we’ve done two parts already, and I think it’s because we realize that they are great plays. And people don’t actually get to see them ever, so we want to do them justice.

Are you surprised they are great plays?

Yeah! Yeah! I really am. I am. And I’m not someone who shies away from something just because it’s a history, but I am surprised that all three of them—Part 1 not being my favorite—but all three of them are great. That is very surprising to me.

You mentioned the change in the cast over the course of the three. Most significantly…
Um ...
I didn’t get to kill René. [René Thornton Jr. a longtime staple at ASC who had played York in the first two parts was invited to play Papa Shakespeare in a production of Carlyle Brown’s The African Company Presents Richard III at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Jeremy West took the part of York in Part 3.] I was very upset with him because of that. Jeremy West was great, but...
That’s not who I was going to mention.
Well, that’s Margaret’s concern. [Laughs] I’ve been waiting to kill René for years, and then René decides to not be in the season where I finally get to get my comeuppance and kill him. How dare he. He knows that. He’s gotten an earful from me about that.
He had a great opportunity, you know.
I know. He did, and I don’t begrudge him that. I just begrudge the fact that I didn’t actually get to say that speech to him [the bloody napkin scene before York is killed].
Jeremy did a very good job.
Great job. Jeremy stepped up, yes. Couldn’t have asked for anything better, but I missed my René.

The one I was going to mention was Henry.
You didn’t play opposite Alyssa who played it in Part 1. But you played opposed Denice, then opposite Gregory. Did it matter to you that there was a different person playing the king?

It didn’t, but I found it very interesting that in Parts 1 and 2, you had this younger king being played by a woman, and then later, just chronologically, finally is being played by a man. Again, I don’t think that Henry changes that much through the course of these plays, so the gender didn’t matter as much to me, and the fact that it was a different person didn’t matter as much because I think what Shakespeare’s writing is generally the same guy. I mean, he’s still after the same things in most of these plays. He’s really after peace and simplicity and a life that hasn’t been thrust upon him. But it was interesting to finally have a man in the role. Even though I wasn’t on stage with Alyssa, I certainly saw what she was doing, and then on stage a lot with Denice. And then having a man who’s still a timid, meek man, and the fact that Greg played my Suffolk the past two years, too; I still get Greg but in a completely different way.

I decided to put a kiss in when she comes out in Act 2 Scene 5. It’s very quick but it’s right after he’s delivered those big speeches about the father and son deaths, and she comes out and, again, he’s sitting on the freaking battlefield, “What are you doing?” And she says, “You’ve got to go. Richard and Edward are coming and you need to go.” Before the second performance, I said, “Would you be all right if I added a kiss there?” And he said, “Yeah.” It’s the last time we see Margaret and Henry on stage together. He’s going away to Scotland and I’m going away to France to try and get help. I’m like, “You go live in safety in this walled town where no one can get to you. [Laughs] Self-imposed banishment, please do it for our safety.” I thought it would be really nice. I wanted it to show just one other level and that there’d be some tender moment. I also did the slap and the grab in the first scene. I wanted to put that grab in there, and he said, “What about a slap?” and I’m like, “I’m down for a slap if you’re down for a slap. Let’s do it."

They don’t have the passion that Suffolk and Margaret had. And if you talk to a lot of people I’d imagine that they would say that Margaret doesn’t love Henry. I don’t think she’s in love with Henry, but I think that they have been a team for a long time now. They’ve been in a partnership. It’s not been an equal partnership, and it’s not been the most ideal team. But they’ve been together for a long time and fighting the fights, and for the most part he does what she says. So, I thought it would be really nice to just have a moment, a really quick tender moment before I leave. After I leave, Exeter has a line that says, “Dude, we’ve got to go.” So I thought it might help Greg to have a moment kind of like, “Whoa, where did that come from?” before, “Yeah, we’ve got to get out of here.” And I think that it did, which is nice.

Obviously having a man in that role, that’s not going to spur any illicit response from me kissing him on the mouth; we’re not going to get the “Whooo!” that we got in Part 2 [kissing Denice upon their meeting]. But I thought it would be nice to just add a little bit that’s not Margaret wanting to beat the s*** out of Henry; it’s her wanting to actually have a tender moment, because she is concerned for his safety. You can interpret that as is it selfish? Is it political? But she is concerned for his safety. And she’s always wanting him to not give up on himself or the throne or what is his, she believes, birthright.

[Pause] It’s a good thing we don’t have any Yorkists here. They’d be all over this. [Laughs]

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