Monday, October 22, 2012

Artober Nashville: Close Encounter with the Pirate Queen at The Conversation Free Reading Tonight

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2012 at 5:01 AM

Staged readings are a boon for playwrights (who can get a sense of how their work plays and sounds in performance) and for theater companies (who can introduce and test-drive new material with little financial risk). And when they're done well, with casts invigorated by fresh scripts, they're a boon for audiences too.

For theatergoers, the risk is encouragingly low at tonight's free reading 6:45 p.m. at the Looby Branch of the Nashville Public Library, presented by the Metro Parks Theatre Department's New Play Reading Series and F.L.A.G. (The Foreign Language Acting Group). It's the first local reading of The Conversation, a historical drama by St. Louis playwright Dennis Michael Corcoran, who imagines a face-off between Queen Elizabeth I (played here by Linda Spier) and the so-called Pirate Queen of Ireland, Gráinne Ni Mháille (aka Grace O'Malley, played by Jan Parrish Hendon). Don Breedwell rounds out the cast under the direction of Ann Street-Kavanagh.

This excerpt from a St. Louis write-up gives you an idea what to expect:

This play focuses on a discussion between Queen Elizabeth I and Gráinne Ní Mháille, or Grace O'Malley. Grace was an Irish pirate and chieftain of the Ó Máille clan. In the 16th century when England was in the process of trying to gain rule over Ireland, many Gaelic chieftains were handing over their land to the monarch and adopting fancy English titles, but Grace was a thorn in England's side — a "bleeding ulcer" who refused to submit. Her notorious exploits on the sea also posed a threat to England's purse. When Grace's son and half-brother were imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth's armies, she sailed to English soil to seek favor and petition their release. ...

The play begins with the Queen preparing to meet with Grace. Although Elizabeth's advisor, Sir William Cecil, is highly suspicious of Grace, the Queen is open to meeting with her, not only to try to get her to win over the Irish hold-outs, but also seemingly out of curiosity about this female Irish pirate. The two women find out that in addition to being fluent in Latin, they have many more things in common than they might have thought — mainly their sense of being shackled to their people. Their styles are different, but their responsibilities are very similar. Although Grace proves a tough nut to crack, the two achieve a mutual respect for one another along with a cautious friendship. This account of their dialogue is fictional (nobody really knows the details of the actual conversation), but this play gives us a credible look at the way things may have gone down. ...

The special guest this evening is singer/songwriter Caleb Harper, and a talk after the play will center on the diplomatic use of the arts. The library is located at 2301 Rosa Parks Blvd.

Click here for more Artober Nashville events today.

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