|Cast (in order of appearance)
|The Common Man
|| Todd Merrill
|| William Dennis Hunt
|| Pascal Marcotte
|The Duke of Norfolk
|| Matt Foyer
|| Pamela Mant
|| Michelle East
|| Fredric Cook
|| Morgan Rusler
|| John Jabaley
|| Dan Wingard
|King Henry VIII
|| Dan Harper
|| Sean Branney
|| Leslie Baldwin & Sean Branney
||G. Stephanie Morey
|| Shaun Meredith
|| Brandt A. Marshall, Angela Jesolva, Sandi Sullivan
||Steven E. Einspahr
||Beth Kennedy, Kristie Transeau
Robert Bolt (Playwright)
Son of a small shopkeeper, he attended Manchester Grammar School. He later said that he made poor uses of his opportunities there. He went to work in an insurance office, but later entered Manchester University, taking a degree in History. A post-graduate year at Exeter University led to a schoolmaster's position, first at a village school in Devon, then for seven years at Millfield. During this time he wrote a dozen radio plays, which were broadcast. Encouraged by the London success of his stage play "Flowering Cherry" he left teaching for full-time writing. 1960 saw two of his plays ("The Tiger And The Horse" and "A Man For All Seasons") running concurrently in the West End. (courtesy imdb.com)
Bolt gained his international reputation for depicting history through the lives of heroic figures with his play about Sir Thomas More, "A Man for All Seasons," and won an Oscar for scripting its 1966 film adaptation. He earned an Academy Award nomination for his very first screenplay, Lawrence of Arabia (1962), for David Lean, and then continued collaborating with the director on Doctor Zhivago (1965, netting Bolt his first Oscar) and Ryan's Daughter (1970). He directed his own screenplay of Lady Caroline Lamb (1972), which starred his wife Sarah Miles. A later stroke partially paralyzed him, but he continued to work; his screenplay for The Bounty (1984) was condensed from two scripts he had originally written for Lean to direct, and he was working on an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's "Nostromo" at the time of Lean's death in 1991. He also wrote the telefilm Without Warning: The James Brady Story (1991). Bolt died in England in 1995. (courtesy Leonard Maltin)
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Production Notes by Sean Branney 12/8/01
I continue to be in awe of this play and the man it celebrates-Thomas More. I believe our production succeeded for the same reasons that Bolt's play (and later film) was such a success. We collectively long for figures like More to hold up as heroes. TV and film may give us a glut of heroes willing to shoot bad guys, save the victims and solve impossible cases. But Bolt gives us a hero whose path is much more difficult, who's suffering comes at a greater cost and who's example actually means something.
Our Thomas More, William Dennis Hunt, gave a superlative performance as this larger-than-life man. He captured More's mind and heart, and with the help of an outstanding cast, let modern day audiences actually feel the incredible intensity of his life. Bill Hunt succeeded where Robert Bolt succeeded: giving us a history lessson that steers clear of didactism and is, instead, invested with the humanity which informs our modern-day experience.
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We created Theatre Banshee to provide a loud, clear voice in these times of social stagnation. Our mission is far-reaching: to revitalize American culture and the art form of theatre in particular by offering the public live entertainment which is challenging, engaging and affordable. As the digital age expands, it has become increasingly difficult to find quality live entertainment which is immediate and thought-provoking. We plan to accomplish this goal by producing a season which features classical and contemporary plays as well as new and experimental works by emerging authors. To reach as broad an audience as possible, we plan to present our plays to the public in traditional theatre venues and take theatre to audiences via an Outreach Program. The Outreach Program allows us to bring Theatre Banshees works to children, the elderly, the disabled and other groups who are often denied the experience of live theatre.
A Brief History
More is a man of an angels wit and singular learning. I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness and affability? And as time requireth a man of marvellous mirth and pastimes, and sometimes of as sad gravity: a man for all seasons.
Robert Whittinton (1520)
King Henry VIIIfor most people the name conjures up an image of a glutton gnawing a turkey leg while plotting the demise of one of his six wives (or was it eight?). And while that image is not without some truth, Henry was a vivacious intellectual whose passions and ambitions indelibly marked English history. During his reign the Renaissance came to England, and with it, a resurgence of learning, art, music and a flowering of culture. Johannes Gutenberg and his printing press paved the way for new ideas to spread across Europe like wildfire. And with the new ideas of the Renaissance came challenges to the old systems, and reverberations from the collision of New and Old ideas still ring out in the modern world. And mighty Henry stood in the midst of it all.
It was quite by chance that Henry ever became king. His father, Henry VII arranged a marriage for Henrys older brother, Arthur, with Catherine of Aragon, a Spanish Princess. Months after the marriage, Arthur died. Henry VII suggested to the King of Spain that Catherine should re-marry to young Henry so that the strategic alliance could be maintained. England and Spain petitioned the Pope for a dispensation of the canon law which forbids such a marriage (thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brothers wife) which was granted. Henry and Catherine were married and not long after, his father died and he was crowned Henry VIII at the age of eighteen.
In the beginning all was good. Henry was a young and energetic ruler who openly welcomed the art and culture of the Renaissance to England. But as the years went by, the King and Queen were unable to produce a son, an heir to the fragile new Tudor dynasty. Henry came to the conclusion that God was punishing him for his sin in marrying his brothers widow and began to pursue a divorce. Some have suggested the divorce impetus arose from Henrys affections for Anne Boleyn, or from revulsion to Catherines grim piety. Regardless, Henry sought to set himself free and in so doing, to father an heir to the kingdom.
At this time there was only one church, ultimately presided over by the Pope. Henry argued that his marriage was invalid as the Pope should never have granted a dispensation in the first place. But by this time, the old Pope had died and the new Pope did not wish to invalidate the marriage for fear of incurring the wrath of the King of Spain. This left Henry without recourse or a son.
In Germany, Martin Luther began what was to become the reformation of the church, suggesting that the authority of the church as an institution was far from absolute. At first, Henry viciously rejected these arguments, but after his impasse with the Vatican, he saw how such ideas could be used. If Henry appointed himself as the supreme head of the church in England, then he could personally invalidate his marriage to Catherine, divorce her, and marry Anne. And he did just that.
For most, it was a simple matter. The King proclaimed that he was now head of the Church of England and eventually he was accepted as such. But for some, Henrys usurpation of such a spiritual authority was not within the scope of the Kings just powers. Most, when presented with adequate pressure, eventually conceded the point. Those who would not accept the new church were destroyed.
The new church remained, but Queen Anne did not. And Henry went on to have four more wives and ultimately never produced a son to succeed him. His legacy was the groundwork for the glory of the Elizabethan age (Queen Elizabeth was his daughter after all). But in addition to humanism and the arts, Henry left his realm with an open spiritual wound, his subjects divided between allegiance to the old church or allegiance to their monarch. The rift between the Church of England and the Catholic Church never completely healed, and to this day it continues to fuel clashes of ideology in various parts of the world.
It is rare indeed that the world gives us a character as rich and as admirable as Thomas More. And while the playwright Bolt may have treated the historical More rather kindly in his play, the essential facts and the essential character of Thomas More are true to history. And because such men walk amongst us so rarely, it is worthwhile to take a moment upon the stage to celebrate the man.
There is much to admire in Thomas More and the story of his death. There is the man of conscience, unwilling acquiesce to royal demands. There is the man of faith who commits utterly to his beliefs because they are his. There is the witty lawyer who can eke his own safety from the tangles of the law. There is the man of integrity who can be bought neither with riches nor with pain. There is a man who knows himself in a way which few men can.
The play speaks to us loudly on two levels: political and personal. Thomas More is striking as he is so antithetical to our perceptions of modern politicians. A man who holds the second highest office in the realm and he is not corrupt, cannot be bribed, and performs his duties passionately with the due gravity and thought? It is sad that such an individual as a public servant is so difficult to imagine in the modern world. But in this age of convenience, we regularly watch our elected officials sling mud, broker deals, and grovel for campaign funds with the hope of staying in office for another term without being toppled by scandal, disgrace or indictment. More says, "I believe when statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties, they lead their country on a short road to chaos". No one in Washington seems to say things like that. Why, we wonder, cant our politicians have the dignity, honesty and integrity of Thomas More? Then again, why cant we?
As we think on Thomas More and his plight, its natural to think, "What would I do? I think Id do the right thing. Yes, Id be like Sir Thomas." Yet day in and day out we are pitted against minor moral dilemmas and most of us dont always fare as well as we might hope. We engage in trade-offs, tit for tat, quid pro quos. And we find out what the price of our convictions is and where our morality falters. We see where we can stand true to our resolve and where forces are that can cause it to crumble. We have the good sense to save our necks, protect our families, and do what is necessary to go on with our lives. And then we look at Thomas More and realize, he really is something special.
And so we celebrate the man, his tribulation and his triumph. And we mourn his destruction. And we look around us for the next uncommon man who will help us to see who we could be. And in the interim, perhaps we manage to fortify our resolve just a little bit more, and set the price of our convictions a little higher.
For Aidan, may you grow to be a man for all seasons.
Le Conte Junior High School
Sharon & Ken Baldwin
Toni Bull Bua
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