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'I just wanted to look at them as humans': The Texas premier of 'The Virgin Trial'

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Alchemy Theatre

Michael Cooper, the artistic director of Alchemy Theatre, has been thinking about directing Kate Hennig’s The Virgin Trial for about five years now, after seeing the world premiere of the play at the 2017 Stratford Festival in Ontario. “People lined up to see this; it was a massive hit,” Cooper says. “And the reason people liked is that it plays out like a contemporary thriller. It’s a whodunnit – did she do that, did he do that, who’s vying for power?”

The Virgin Trial is part of Hennig’s Queenmaker series, about the Tudor queens; this one centers around a little-known story of Queen Elizabeth I before she became queen in 1558. “What’s so interesting about Kate’s writing,” Cooper says, “is [that] she takes those historical facts and those historical people and she says I just wanted to look at them as humans and let people know why they did what they did in order to get into power.”

“We’re all about finding the humanity and the realness in stories,” says Alchemy’s managing director Carol Hickey. “And Kate Hennig just wrote a beautiful script about Queen Elizabeth when she was a teenage, but really in such a human, real way. And we’re in love with it.”

“[Hennig] tells a historical story in a very, very contemporary way,” Cooper adds. “So it’s contemporary language, contemporary clothing, contemporary setting, contemporary environment. But the story is based on historical fact.”

“But mostly, [Hennig] wanted to tell a story about girl power,” Hickey says. “and that crazy thing that happens to adolescent girls when they come into their own power. And here [Elizabeth] is — this young girl — and [she] figured out a way, maneuvered her way into becoming the most powerful leader at the time. I mean, it is an amazing story!”

“One of the best lines in it,” Cooper says, “is she’s asked what does she wants at age 13. And she says, ‘I want to be King.’ Not queen, king. Which tells you everything.”

'The Virgin Trial' runs through September 24 at Alchemy Theatre.

Mike is a features producer at KUT, where he’s been working since his days as an English major at the University of Texas. He produces Arts Eclectic, Get Involved, and the Sonic ID project, and also produces videos and cartoons for KUT.org. When pressed to do so, he’ll write short paragraphs about himself in the third person, but usually prefers not to.