Mary Stillwaggon Stewart as Alice More and Thomas Michael Hammond as Sir Thomas More. Photo by Avery Brunkus
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ) completes their run of A Man for All Seasons this Sunday, Nov. 5. STNJ has a fine history of presenting dramas with historic background. They do it with outstanding direction, strong acting, and creative elements that make for a powerful show. This tradition continues with A Man for All Seasons.
This production carries out the idea that some people will go to great lengths to live their beliefs and stay true to their conscience. At times, living true to those beliefs can be very costly especially when everyone around is willing to go with the flow. The ability to stand by one’s unpopular beliefs entails an extraordinary strength of character. This is the basic theme in Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons. It provides an intense drama that centers on the opposition Sir Thomas More held against England’s King Henry VIII concerning his desire to divorce Catherine of Aragon.
How the Story Unfolds
We look at divorce differently today than back in the 1500’s which is the setting of the play. The is the time when King VIII created political, social and religious disruptions to England. It’s the time when the King went against the Pope of the Catholic Church where divorce was not allowed. The corruption inside the Church was present so Henry figured he could get what he wanted.
Why was it so important? Henry’s forced marriage to Catherine of Aragon was floundering. They could not produce a son to be the next heir to the throne. Henry wants to divorce her and marry Anne Boleyn with the hopes that union will produce a son and heir.
Yes, history tells us all of this. But A Man For All Seasons shows what the people around the King went through. Most, if not all, except for Sir Thomas More, support the King’s decision to break from the Church in order to get his divorce. Some do this as a way to increase their own power bases such as Thomas Cromwell and Richard Rich and others.
The play shows the life More led before he was imprisoned. He and his family enjoyed the fruits of his labor as Chancellor to the King. Their lives were secure. However, once More did not endorse Henry VIII’s move to establish himself as head of the Church of England, More fell out of favor. Eventually he lost his position with the King. It should also be noted that the King admired More and wanted his approval. But when More did not give it, he was replaced as Chancellor. His family continued to support him but eventually he was sentenced to death by King Henry VIII.
Why Go Through all That?
A Man for All Seasons shows how Thomas More remained steadfast in his devotion to the Church and the Pope. He proved himself to be a man of virtue right to the end.
As you watch the show, you will see some interesting thoughts exchanged between the players examining their own issues. The inclusion of the Common Man gives a form of narration that brings out some interesting points.
Being that this is a classic show, you can also examine connections to our world today. Would an issue like this cause someone to loose everything? Or even more importantly, how true will people remain to their own principals?
Cast and Direction
Paul Mullins provides fine direction of a strong cast. Thomas Michael Hammond plays Sir Thomas More and Roger Clark portrays King Henry VIII. James McMenamin plays Thomas Cromwell. Kevin Isola plays the role of The Common Man.
Edward Furs plays Signor Chapuys with Ty Lane as William Roper. Sean Mahan plays Cranmer and Anthony Marble plays Duke of Norfolk. Brianna Martinez is Margaret More, Mary Stillwaggon Stewart plays Alice More. Aaron McDaniel plays Richard Rich, Raphael Nash Thompson plays Cardinal Woolsey and Henry David Silberstein plays the Attendant.
Before You Go to A Man for All Seasons
STNJ provides information to help theater goers get more out of the show. For this production, it is well worth the time to visit their website to locate A Man for All Seasons Know-the-Show Guide. Be sure to click the link for More Info and then Related Links to locate it.
This guide provides information related to the show including Director Paul Mullins’ Director’s Notes and Playwright Robert Bolt’s Intro to the Play Notes. Additionally, take a look at the way the main characters are presented as it is relevant to the plot. These presentations include The Members of the Family, Men of Power, and Men Seeking Power. There is also information about how Sir Thomas More was executed and events connected with his family afterwards.
Kevin Isola as The Common Man and Aaron McDaniel as Richard Rich. Photo by Avery Brunkus.
To Go to A Man for All Seasons
Ticket prices range from $34 to $65. There are also various cost-saving opportunities, including $15 student rush tickets, which are available 30 minutes prior to each performance with a valid student ID, and a limited number of Pay What You Can tickets for every performance on a first-come, first-served basis.
STNJ also has a $30 Under 30 ticket option, which offers $30 tickets for patrons aged 30 and under with valid ID. Other discounts are available including subscription discounts, and a 10% discount for members of PBS/Thirteen and AAA. For tickets, patrons can call the Box Office at 973-408-5600 or visit ShakespeareNJ.org
Audience Enrichment & Accessible Performances:
For the same price as a regular ticket, the Symposium Series performances offer a post-show discussion with the cast and artistic staff. There is one remaining for A Man for All Seasons which will be held on Saturday, November 4th at 2:00 PM.