- Notes from the Director

A Rose by Any Other Name

No matter what we call it, The Rise of Queen Margaret is chock-full of political maneuvering, assassinations, and a nation that erupts into civil war.  We’ll open this show in September as our country gets ready to head to the ballot box; it will run after we elect our next President, but it will end before she/he takes office.  So if you’re enthralled by the political process during this election year, Margaret will feed your beast.  If you’re so sick of politics that you’d rather poke your eye out with a sharp stick than see another report from Fox News or MSNBC, you’ll love Margaret because in Shakespeare’s world, political losers get their heads chopped off.

Shakespeare’s three plays that cover the reign of King Henry the Sixth have not gotten the love they deserve over the years.  Maybe the reason is because some scholars believe 1H6 was co-authored by Thomas Nashe (and/or others).  Perhaps it’s because some scholars believe 2H6 and 3H6 were written first and then Shakespeare wrote 1H6 as a prequel.  Or maybe some elitist folks are just snobbish about the “baseness” in the large number of fights, skirmishes, and broad battle scenes that seem to be inspired by the box office blockbuster Tamburlaine the Great by Christopher Marlowe.  Whatever the criticisms may be, our mission with this production is to entertain your socks off with the second chapter of Shakespeare’s King Henry the Sixth trilogy.  Call it The White Rose Strikes Back.

Printed in quarto form (essentially an Elizabethan paperback) in 1594, the name of 2H6 on this title page is:

The First part of the Contention betwixt the two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, with the death of the good Duke Humphrey: And the banishment and death of the Duke of Suffolke, and the Tragicall end of the proud Cardinal of Winchester, with the notable Rebellion of Jack Cade: and the Duke of Yorke's first claim unto the Crowne

The 1623 First Folio (a Jacobean coffee table book which is the first collected works of 35 Shakespeare plays – we believe Shakes wrote or co-wrote 38), printed 7 years after Shakespeare’s death, includes the first known use of the title:  The Second part of King Hen. the Sixt.  The surviving evidence (and lack thereof) makes a good case that the play you’re seeing today was never called Henry VI, Part 2 in Shakespeare’s lifetime.  What did Shakespeare call this play?  How did his company advertise it?  In keeping with the tradition of finding the right titles to help sell these remarkable stories (that might scare off modern Americans if we stuck with the Roman numerals and Parts listed in the Folio’s table of contents), we at the ASC have titled our first two productions in the Wars of the Roses Ride:

Joan of Arc (Henry VI, Part 1) – 2015 Summer/Fall Season

The Rise of Queen Margaret (Henry VI, Part 2) – 2016 Summer/Fall Season

And we asked our audiences to help us name 3H6 for 2017.  By the time you read these words, we may have picked a winner.

If you’re worried about being able to follow a Shakespeare “history play,” relax.  You can enjoy The Empire Strikes Back by itself without having seen Star Wars.  You can enjoy Captain America:  Civil War without having seen the previous Cap or Iron Man movies.  If we succeed in entertaining your socks off with 2H6, we hope you return next year for 3H6 and the following year for Richard III.  If we don’t succeed, come back anyway and let us take another crack at your socks.  Thanks for joining us for this thrilling part of the Wars of the Roses Ride.

Jim Warren

Artistic Director and Co-founder