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Henry VIIIPresented by the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois. 04 30–06 16, 2013. Directed by Barbara Gaines. Scenic Design by James Noone. Costume Design by Mariann S. Verheyen. Lighting Design by Anne Militello. Original Music and Sound Design by Lindsay Jones. Choreography by Harrison McEldowney. With Lance Baker (Gardiner), Kate Buddeke (Old Lady), David Darlow (Cardinal Campeius), Kevin Gudahl (Thomas More/Surveyor/Griffith), Scott Jaeck (Cardinal Wolsey), Ora Jones (Queen Katherine), David Lively (Norfolk), Andrew Long (Buckingham), Mike Nussbaum (Suffolk), Christina Pumariega (Anne Boleyn), Samuel Taylor (Cromwell), Gregory Wooddell (Henry VIII) and others.
Measure for MeasurePresented by The Goodman Theatre, Chicago, Illinois. 03 9–04 14, 2013. Directed by Robert Falls. Set by Walt Spangler. Costume Design by Ana Kuzmanic. Lighting by Marcus Doshi. Original Music and Sound Design by Richard Woodbury. With Jeffrey Carlson (Lucio), Celeste M. Cooper (Juliet), Aaron Todd Douglas (Pompey), Alejandra Escalante (Isabella), Billy Fenderson (Froth), Joe Foust (Cardinal Thomas/Barnardine), Sean Fortunato (Elbow), Kevin Fugaro (Claudio), Cindy Gold (Mistress Overdone), John Judd (Escalus), Kate LoConti (Mariana), James Newcomb (Duke), A. C. Smith (Provost), Daniel Smith (Abhorson), Jay Whittaker (Angelo) and others.

Entering the Shakespeare-friendly 500-seat Courtyard Theatre with its thrust stage and intimate galleries, the first thing the audience saw was a huge black banner with “Henry VIII” scrolled out in massive gold gothic letters, hanging over the stage. It looked like a piece of empty, pretty scenery. But then the play began as an unexpectedly operatic adaptation of the start of a Catholic High Mass in the old Latin style. Accompanied by swelling liturgical organ and chorus, a procession of scarlet-cloaked churchmen entered from the back of auditorium center. They were led by Wolsey, who dragged behind him an enormous scarlet train, with a large fluted golden cross in the middle: a cross that covered [End Page 485]the entire thrust stage once the Cardinal had reached what might have been imagined as the foot of the altar. Standing upstage center with his back to the audience/congregation, Wolsey unclasped and dropped the cape. It then became a curtain, soaring over the stage as it was raised high with the cross front-and-center, completely blotting from view the name of the king. Before the speeches even began, the production thus visually established that Wolsey and the Catholic Church he represented were more powerful than the King of England. But over the course of the play that scarlet Whore of Babylon would be gradually replaced by the trim Anglican-vestmented Cranmer, and the final christening of the baby Elizabeth was spectacularly celebrated with a shower of gold stars falling onto King Henry’s dazzling diamond-studded crown and gold silk cape as he held the infant in his arms.

Catholicism and Protestantism were, in this production, equally spectacular, and both employed yards and yards of billowing colorful silk. Gaines, Noone and Verheyen transformed the spectacle that is written into the Jacobean script and the modern mythology of King Henry VIII. They replaced long, slow, boring processions in heavy and embroidered velvets, elaborate Tudor sets and massed extras, substituting the royal magnificence of simple, elegant, expensive silk costumes and panels. Gaines wanted silk because, she told me, it is the most sensual of fabrics, and she was determined to make this story sensual. The young ladies of the Court wore silk dresses, low-cut, stiff-bodiced, laced up the back and of varied floral colors, with skirts gathered, latticed, and full. When they twirled, the silk lifted and whispered like the gossip in the Tudor court. Between scenes one and two, a nameless buxom blonde, evidently one of Henry’s early mistresses, pulled sheets of lavender silk across the back of the stage, as though they were bed curtains; the light on these panels gradually darkened them to a royal purple that matched the color of Katherine’s dress in scene two, establishing a chameleon court that was, for a while, dominated by her colors. At the end of the divorce scene, Henry in his fury pulled down two grey panels that rose from the stage to the auditorium’s high ceiling...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-1427
Print ISSN
0748-2558
Pages
pp. 485-494
Launched on MUSE
2013-09-11
Open Access
N
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