The Shakespeare Society (Michael Sexton, Artistic Director) presents HISTORY GIRLS: Three great women of the American theater take on three epic roles from Shakespeare's history plays. Kathleen Chalfant (Wit, Angels In America), Marian Seldes (Three Tall Women, Dinner at Eight, A Delicate Balance) and Kate Mulgrew (Tea at Five, Star Trek: Voyager, upcoming Manhattan Theatre Club’s Our Leading Lady) give vivid life to three of the most spirited women in history: Constance (King John), Elizabeth (Richard III), and Margaret (Henry VI, Part 3 and Richard III). Shakespeare clearly had a taste for passionate, furious, eloquent women, and these extraordinary actresses serve up a feast of language. They are joined on stage by Christopher Evan Welch (The Scene, Festen), Joe Plummer and Brian Murray. Commentary provided by Dympna Callaghan (Professor, Syracuse University and editor of The Feminist Companion to Shakespeare).

Thanks to Carol LaPlante for the program scans.

History Girls
Constance, Elizabeth and Margaret
Presented by The Shakespeare Society
at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College
68th St. between Lexington and Park Avenues, New York, NY
February 12, 2007
Adriana Mnuchin
Dympna Callaghan
Kathleen Chalfant
Kate Mulgrew
Marian Seldes
Brian Murray
Joe Plummer
Christopher Evan Welch
Adriann Mnuchin 
and Nancy Becker
Michael Sexton
Report by Elaine DeBerardine
Many thanks to Elaine for sharing it with Totally Kate!

I saw Kate in the History Girls Shakespeare Society performance last night.  It was a wonderful evening. 

Kate was wearing a cranberry corduroy blazer and skirt.  Her hair was up in a loose bun.  She was wearing black lace-up boots with a substantial heel. She looked lovely. 

After the introduction by one of the producers, the lecturer and the six actors came out on stage.  The other two actresses, Kathleen Chalfant and Marian Seldes, I recognized from guest roles in television or small parts in movies. The three actors were Brian Murray, Joe Plummer and Christopher Evan Welch. 

Kate participated in three of the scenes.  She played Constance in "King John" in two scenes and the Duchess of York in "Richard III" in one scene. 

The lecturer would set the scene with some historic background, some discussion of what the Elizabethan audience might have thought or felt about the play and its characters, and then would discuss Shakespeare's motivations and uses of the characters.  Then when she was finished the actors would let loose - well as loose as they could standing in front of lecterns. 

Kate's "King John" scenes were performed first. 

Act III, scene i - Constance is enraged that her young son, Arthur, has been passed over to be king of England.   Kate was on fire! Her performance was nuanced and powerful.  She used that wonderful voice to draw her audience in and then - boom - she'd flatten you with the wrath pouring off her in waves.  When she delivered the line,"War! war! no peace! peace is to me a war", a chill ran right down my spine. 

Act III, scene iv - Constance's son Arthur has been captured by opposing forces, is tortured and killed. 

Kate made Constance's grief palpable.  I don't know how else to describe it.  Kate made Constance's anguish real - tears welled in my eyes as I watched this woman mourn her son's torture and death. 

Richard III 

Act IV, scene iv - Kate played the Duchess of York.  This was more of a supporting role to Marian Seldes, who was playing Queen Margaret.  Kate was just as committed to this smaller part as she had been to the bigger role. 

Now for the voyeuristic part - I was about 100 feet away from the where Kate was sitting and I kept stealing glances at her while the lecturer and other actors were on stage.  She was very engaged with everything going on; either following the other actors' speeches in her own copy of the script or intently watching and listening to the other participants.  Kate is a very active listener - crossing and uncrossing her legs, bobbing her foot, twisting an earring, resting her chin on her fist, nodding in agreement to a performance or the lecturer's comment. 

It was quite fun to watch her and try to get a read on her while she wasn't performing.  I'm so used to seeing her in character and I'm sure she's very active and engaging at the conventions, but to see her just sitting, listening and appreciating the performances and lecture was quite a unique experience. 

It was a marvelous experience!