A community production of the Lion in Winter opened in Haines last weekend. The actors take the stage of the Chilkat Center again this week. It’s the story of a dysfunctional royal family during the holidays.
Mark Zeiger portrays King Henry II in the James Goldman play. This is also Zeiger’s directorial debut.
“It’s 1183 and we are in English-held France, Chinon,” says Zeiger.
The family drama at the center of the play? Who will take the throne after King Henry.
“He had four sons that he was considering,” Zeiger says. “He had already made young Henry his son a king of England beside him. That caused friction because young Henry had the crown but he didn’t have any power, dad was calling all the shots. So Henry, Eleanor, and Henry’s two older brothers, younger brothers but the older one – Richard the Lionheart and Geoffrey all banded against Henry and revolted.”
By the time the play takes place, young Henry has died. Meaning there’s no one to take over if Henry II dies. That’s where the battle between the three princes comes in — Richard the Lionheart, played by Ryan Staska.
“Richard wants to do anything he can to become king,” says Staska. “So he’s always plotting, he’s always scheming, he’s always listening intently. Trying to gather as much information as he can.”
Geoffrey, played by Riyan Stossel.
“Richard tends to grow into anger while Geoffrey keeps on plotting,” says Stossel. “And he plays both sides of the mat. He’s always looking for an in with someone. He’s willing to double turn on somebody.”
And John, played by Dominic Stossel.
“My character is the younger, spoiled child,” said Stossel. “He’s arrogant. He’s not necessarily dumb but it sometimes comes across like that. He’s never had to be clever like these two had.”
As it turns out, the Stossel’s are brothers in real life. And their mom, Amanda Randles – who also happens to be the KHNS morning news host, plays their fictional mother, Eleanor.
“Some of the conflict that happens between her and her kids is not something I’ve dealt with, with my kids,” says Randles. “So it’s kind of fun being up there with Price Geoffrey, who is my son Riyan. And the two of us yelling in each other’s face. That doesn’t generally happen in my family.”
Randles’ daughter Gina is also in the show, portraying Alais.
“If I can have a total proud mama moment, when Mark told me that he wanted to cast me and all three of my children in this, I thought that’s insane and if I were directing I never would have done that because I would think that’s not going to work,” says Randles. “But what’s so cool is, you know what I have really talented kids.”
Eleanor and Henry have a complicated marriage – to say the least.
“Eleanor and Henry have been married for 31 years,” says Randles. “There are different counts historically but according to this play they’ve had eleven children. About 10 years earlier, she and her son young Henry who passed away before this play takes place, lead a civil war against Henry and they lost and she ended up in prison. So she’s been locked in a castle for 10 years and he brings her out for Christmas.”
Dominic Stossel says it’s important for people to have an open mind about the show, as it’s more than just a drama, or just a comedy.
“It’s got drama and comedy and sometimes you don’t want them mixing, especially in the same scene,” Dominic Stossel says. “But for people with an open mind, this is a great play. It’s closer to what I think real life is, it’s not one or the other.”
Zeiger says this show is a community production in more ways than one.
” You hear the term community theater, and most places that just means that the actors come out of the community,” says Zeiger. “But this has been a community effort. There’s been so much help from so many places in Haines and so much support and so much enthusiasm.”
There are two more chances to see how this royal family handles drama around the holidays – December 1 and 2 at 7 p.m. at the Chilkat Center.