Thirty years after Henry V's victory at Agincourt, Henry is dead and England is still at war with France. Seeking to forge a working peace and advance his own position at court, the Earl of Suffolk captures the beautiful French princess, Margaret, and then woos her on behalf of the young English king, the pious Henry VI. Arriving in England with great ceremony, Margaret's romantic notions of the life awaiting her are soon shattered. Henry proves a pale reflection of the charming Suffolk, and Margaret's hope for influence at court is dashed on the rocks of England's fading prospects in France. The peace she represents only sharpens division between the rival Houses of York--heirs of Richard II and wearers of the white rose--and Lancaster--heirs of Henry IV, who deposed Richard decades earlier and who take the red rose as their symbol. When Margaret and Henry are slow to produce a royal heir, the power struggle in the English court begins in earnest. Intrigues swirl and treacheries multiply, soon exploding into full-scale combat as "the fatal colors of the striving houses" of York and Lancaster flare into the Wars of the Roses. In the ensuing conflict, Queen Margaret emerges as the impassioned, some times ruthless defender of her son's right to a crown that her husband seems all too ready to relinquish. Her story moves from victory to defeat, renewed hope to final humiliation, Margaret's tutelage in the harsh realities of English politics finally grants her a Cassandra like insight into the falsehood of the "glorious summer" promised by the sons of York and the violent events that Shakespeare wrote about in the next play in his history cycle: Richard III.
Queen Margaret, a political adventure story of England's 15th century, comes to life this summer on the University Theatre's indoor Mainstage. The breath of that life will come from the collaborative efforts of director Tom Markus and a design team including sets by Joe Varga, costumes by W. Alan Williams, sound created by Kevin Dunayer, and CSF Artistic Director Richard Devin designing the lighting. Together, this team crafts an exciting glimpse into the political chaos of a 15th century England caught up in the throes of civil war. The play's action will be set firmly in the late medieval period from which its story comes. Joe Varga creates a frame-within-a-frame for the production's central image: a fractured, tilted set of gothic arches placed within the stage's existing proscenium arch. The design strongly suggests the structure of the play itself as it strives to contain the fractured, unstable world inhabited by the contesting factions of York and Lancaster. The rich blues and golds of medieval France inform those backdrops which transport the action to the continent. The red and gold banners of England, adorned with rampant lions, descend to frame the intrigues of the English court. Costumes based on 15th century art and technology will accent class differences and distinguish the Yorks from the Lancasters. Director Markus also promises battle pyrotechnics galore--only appropriate given Queen Margaret's role at the center of the Wars of the Roses.