The Lion in Winter

By , September 30, 2017

In the past, I’ve written much about Christmas time, particularly its sacredness in our family, and the importance of separating that sacred time from “profane” or ordinary time.

Well, not this year! Christmas has come as early as it ever will on the Zeiger Homestead. I’m directing a play for this coming Christmas: The Lion in Winter, by James Goldman.

Transcribed play lines

Transcribing lines long hand is a great way to learn them (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Last Christmas, while watching the 1968 film version of The Lion in Winter starring Katherine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole, two things struck me:

First: I realized how much this play has in common with Incorruptible: A Dark Comedy about the Dark Ages in which I performed two years ago. Both are comedic dramas set in the Middle Ages, both are written in modern vernacular “American English.”

Second: I really wanted to act in the play on stage!

The Lion in Winter offers a fictional look at an imaginary Christmas family gathering in 1183. King Henry II tries to name an heir to his throne from among his three sons: John (“Lackland”), Richard (“The Lionheart”) and Geoffrey. He’s aided and hindered in this process by his powerful but estranged wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. In the balance: appeasing his ally-turned-enemy Philip, King of France, and his foster daughter-turned-mistress, Alais.

As I like to say: “Intrigue, sex, lies, threats and double crossing. It’s going to be a good, old-fashioned Family Christmas!”

To ensure this happened, it made sense that I should try to direct the play. This would be my first attempt at such an enterprise, but I recruited my Incorruptible director, Amanda, as producer, so I have her experience to back me up.

The cast we pulled together could hardly be more appropriate. Amanda plays Eleanor; her two sons play John and Geoffrey, her daughter plays Alais, and two of their circle of friends play Richard and Philip. It really is a family affair, if you don’t count me. Or, maybe I count as a shirt tail relative.

Anyway, we’ve started rehearsals, and so far, all indications are that this will be an incredible presentation! If I do say so myself.

Which I do.

We’ll start the Christmas season, opening the weekend of November 24, the day after Thanksgiving. We’ll also play the next Friday and Saturday. This is when Haines’s Christmas season gets rolling, with the annual Lighting of the Library (see A Home Craft Christmas Tree), the lighting of Fort Seward, and the Snow Dragon Parade right about then.

But, to make it happen, I’ve got to be in Christmas mode now, at least as far as the play goes.

I’ve often said that on this blog, I write about what’s on my mind. As this play has and will be on my mind for quite a while, you’ll surely read more about it here.

2 Responses to “The Lion in Winter”

  1. Eva says:

    Mark, Congratulations! This sounds great…wish I was closer so I could come to the play. I have not been in a play since I was a junior in high school..about 40 years ago! I enjoyed it and kept thinking I would get involved in a community theatre group but never have do to owning a small business…maybe I’ll put it back on my bucket list! Keep us posted…it is always a wonderful way to start the holidays by attending a play!

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Thanks, Eva, I’m still pretty excited about it, even after herding cats–I mean, conducting rehearsals. I was like you, I did a lot in elementary and secondary school, a little in college, then a long gap. I did one thing in the 14 years we lived in Juneau, then nothing until Incorruptible in ’16. Now, with directing, I’m really getting serious! We’ll keep you posted.

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