Two great Kates the inspiration for “The Last Wife” as WAM Theatre begins Fresh Takes series

Kate Hennig (l) and Katherine Parr (r)

Kate Hennig (l) and Katherine Parr (r)

Kate Hennig and Katherine Parr are both, indubitably, considerably above-average women. The first Kate is of course the remarkable playwright Kate Hennig who takes the WAM Theatre spotlight for the opening event in the 2016 Fresh Takes Play Reading Series, The First Wife. To be directed by WAM Artistic Associate and Fresh Takes Curator Molly Clancy. The reading will take place on Sunday, April 17 at 3 pm at No. Six Depot Roastery and Café, 6 Depot Street in West Stockbridge, MA.

The play itself introduces us to the other Kate, Katherine Parr. She was the first Queen of England and Ireland, the first English queen (and one of the first women) to publish a book under her own name, and regent (and by all accounts, a good one) for several months while Henry was away on a military campaign.

Kate Hennig’s play is a contemporary retelling of the compelling relationship between Katherine Parr and Henry VIII; The Last Wife invites audiences to a powerful examination of patriarchy, sexual politics and women’s rights. Kate is smart, poised, and passionate, a rising star in a world of intense competition, but her obligatory marriage to Henry is rife with the threat of violence and deceit and her devotion to the education of his daughters is putting strain on her marriage. The play had its world premiere in 2015, with a sold out extended run at the Stratford Festival in Canada.

Local Casting

WAM’s Fresh Takes takes pride in featuring local actors and artists whom audiences have grown to love on area stages over the years. The cast of The Last Wife features Kristin Wold (Shakespeare & Company’s Shakespeare’s Will, Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s All In The Timing) as Kate, Tom Jaegar (Shakespeare & Company’s Henry V and Young Company Conservatory Director, ) as Henry, Gabrielle Straight (Barrington Stage Company’s Hairspray, Berkshire Theatre Group’s Annie) as Bess, Caroline Calkins (WAM’s Silence, Shakespeare & Company’s Private Eyes) as Mary, David Joseph (Shakespeare & Company’s Midsummer night’s Dream and Henry V) as Thom and Theo Maurino (Berkshire Theatre Group’s Oliver, Shakespeare & Company’s Riotous Youth) as Eddie. For detailed information on the cast go to: http://www.wamtheatre.com/the-last-wife/

Since 2014 the Fresh Takes series has been introducing Berkshire audiences to ground-breaking works by established women playwrights, focusing on relevant, provocative, uplifting plays that encourage dialogue and deal with current and controversial issues in artful ways. The 2016 Fresh Takes season is sponsored by No. Six Depot and Kristin and James Hatt.

“I’m delighted that WAM is doing this reading because it speaks to your mandate to get the stories of women out there,” playwright Kate Hennig explained. “Women’s stories were dangerous to tell and it is still dangerous to present women’s points of view of history. It is my raison d’etre as a playwright to see women’s stories through their own eyes and with a contemporary lens.”

“Hennig’s writing is richly layered with intelligence and wit, making the dynamic power-plays in this script truly engrossing,” Clancy said. “I’m excited to see the incredible team we’ve assembled for this reading bring Hennig’s contemporary re-telling of this historic and passionate story to life.”

The season kicks off with this April reading, followed by Photograph 51 by Anna Ziegler, directed by Kelly Galvin on May 15; The Oregon Trail by Bekah Brunstetter, directed by Estefanía Fadul on June 19; Samsara by Lauren Yee, directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian on August 21; and Grand Concourse by Heidi Shreck, directed by Sheila Siragusa on September 11.

OLLI Partnership

This year, in response to our audiences request for deeper discussion around the women’s issues raised in each play, WAM Theatre is partnering with OLLI to co-present a companion class called ‘Fresh Takes/Your Take’. Starting on the Monday following the May reading of Photograph 51, WAM Artistic Director Kristen van Ginhoven will share the underpinning of the piece and its author, setting the scene for discussion of audience questions, reactions, and experiences evoked by the Sunday reading.

About the Playwright: KATE HENNIG

WAM Theatre: Debut. Writing: Her writing includes poetry, stories, articles for industry publications, a dissertation, two blogs, and a research paper. As a playwright Kate has been a member of the Groundswell Playwrights’ Unit 2003 (More), Tarragon Playwrights’ Unit 2004 (More), and the Banff Playwrights’ Colony 2007 (More) and 2008 (Waterworks). Her play, The Eleventh David was produced in August 2006 as part of the SummerWorks Festival, to great critical and audience acclaim. Kate has written a monologue for movement and voice called The Penelope Principle. She has written two highly subscribed blogs documenting her acting experiences with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and with Billy Elliot: The Musical on Broadway. Her play Waterworks was given a reading at the Stratford Festival in 2012. Venues: The Banff Centre, Nightwood Theatre, Tarragon Theatre, Blyth Festival, Grand Theatre, Shaw Festival, Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Theatre Aquarius, Theatre Passe Muraille, and Volcano. Et Cetera: Kate’s writing has been funded by the Toronto Arts Council, and by the Ontario Arts Council through the Creators’ Reserve.

About the Director: MOLLY CLANCY

WAM Theatre: Artistic Associate, Fresh Takes Play Reading Series Curator & Producer, Director for Water by the Spoonful, Assistant Director for In Darfur, How The World Began and Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England. Regional Theatre: Molly currently works at Shakespeare & Company as the Publicity Director and previously worked at Florida Studio Theatre (Sarasota, FL) and Home Made Theatre (Saratoga Springs, NY). Additional Directing: SDC Foundation Observership Class 2015 – 2016, Charlotte’s Web and The Wizard of Oz (Forest Lake Theatre) and The Rwandans’ Visit (Lougheed Festival of the Arts at SUNY Potsdam). Additional Assistant Directing: Taibi Magar’s Comedy of Errors (Shakespeare & Company) Training: SUNY Potsdam (BA in Theatre and English). Twitter: @MollyClancyy

AT A GLANCE

Fresh Takes Play Reading Series is curated by WAM Theatre’s Artistic Associate Molly Clancy and hosted by No. Six Depot Roastery and Café on 6 Depot Street in West Stockbridge, MA, on select Sundays at 3 pm.

The 2016 Fresh Takes series is sponsored by No. Six Depot Roastery and Café and Kristin and James Hatt.

There are only 30 tickets available per reading. Tickets are $20, which includes a post-show conversation and the opportunity to meet the cast and director. Refreshments will be available for purchase at the Café. For tickets and more information visit:

Fresh Takes 2016

The companion classes are offered at OLLI’s Pittsfield campus at Berkshire Community College on Monday May 16, June 20, August 22, and September 12 from 7-8:30 pm. $20 for reading only; $40 for one reading/companion class; $139 for all four readings/companion classes. For registration and information visit: http://www.wamtheatre.com/fresh-takesyour-take-olli-classes/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s