UMaine School of Performing Arts Presents ‘Six Dead Queens and An Inflatable Henry’ – The Maine Campus

On April 14, at the Cyrus Pavilion Theater, students from the Theater and Dance Division of the University of Maine School of Performing Arts took the stage for the production of “Six Dead Queens and An Inflatable Henry “. The play is about the wives of King Henry VIII of England set in the afterlife common chamber of past queens. The staging of the play felt like watching a sleepover.

“While it includes many references to the lives of the women and their marriages to Henry, it is a fictional storyline and designed to entertain more than educate,” said Angela Bonacasa, the performance director.

From the opening scene, viewers know they are not in a typical play.

The play talks about each of the queens competing to find out who was the “superior queen”, but unbeknownst to them, they each shareD similar flaws that reveal themselves as the piece progresses. They each do their best to discuss their loyalty to the king. They finally realized that the problem was not them but Henry. The show ends with a powerful statement as they each get the chance to literally deflate their husbands, giving them the revenge they’ve all been seeking. It was an interesting portrayal of feminism and raised the question, “Ladies…is it really worth it?”

“People can expect something very, very different!” said Bonacasa. “The show lasts a little over an hour and kicks off with a bang. Some moments in the show border on farce, while others are heartfelt and tender. One moment there is singing and dancing, and the next there is a sword fight. It constantly changes direction and leaves the viewer wondering what to expect next.

She wasn’t wrong. For the attentive and culturally aware listener, the dialogue is peppered with puns and suggestive innuendo. The “quick on the draw” line was followed by the cast firing prop guns.

The play also saw the Queen comment on contemporary British royal life, such as the wedding of Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla of Cornwall, as well as Meghan Markle’s entry into the royal family.

Each queen had a different personality which was portrayed dramatically by each cast, but all were the same loyal, lovesick spoiled woman corrupted by the burden of unveiling an heir. Delaney McFaden’s portrayal of Anne of Cleaves, a lesser-known queen, stole the show with her facial expressions of agony and disgust. Her body language was perfect as she managed to capture the frustration behind the late monarch.

One of the most powerful scenes in the show was the depiction of the two beheaded queens. The lights went out and Anne Boylen and Katherine Howard, played by Emma Ouellette and Katie Brayson, climbed onto the bed and began recounting the events leading up to their beheading.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the result,” said Bonacasa.

“We started rehearsals in early March, starting with the musical and vocal aspects, then moving into the script and the stage soon after,” Bonacasa said. “Conversations about sets, costumes, and other design elements had been in discussion for several months prior, and actual construction/creation also began in mid-March.”

This practice was widespread in performance. The actors were well grounded in their roles. Each queen spoke quite well with a specific European accent. Some scenes required a musical interlude where the instruments were played by the actors. The choreography of the sword fights and small dance scenes was also very good.

The set was also beautiful. The minimalist lighting was done well, and it created the perfect ambience of a royal bedroom to set the mood whenever one of the queens went off on a tangent. Likewise, the costumes were impeccably made. The dresses fit each actor’s character and help the audience understand the women they wear. These details brought the whole show together, making it highly entertaining and worth watching.

“Performing Arts School Theater Attendance[’s] is accessible to everyone,” Bonacasa said. “There are a number of non-majors who come on the shows, either as actors during the audition process, or on the technical side, the traffic lights, the costume team, or one of the many roles that involve putting on a production. Auditions are usually held every semester for all the shows that will be presented. Those interested can check the School of Performing Arts website or contact the theater office.

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