Palace intrigue, political machinations and family drama play out as The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' 49th Season continues with The Lion in Winter Jan. 6-31, 2016 at the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts at Webster University.


The year is 1183 and King Henry II is aging and beginning to think about his successor. With three boys to choose from, Henry and his estranged wife Eleanor are engaged in quite a battle over who should be the next ruler. Eleanor wants Richard, Henry wants John, and no one wants Geoffrey. Among these players, ever-shifting alliances form, and no one is quite sure who to trust.


Written by James Goldman and Directed by Edward Stern, The Lion in Winter is a clever and entertaining look inside the inner workings of the monarchy delivering something that is very serious with humor and clever manipulation.
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#Boom recently caught up with Rep veteran Carol Schultz who plays the iron-willed Eleanor of Aquitaine. "St. Louis is such a great theater town," said the Chicago native who is celebrating her 15th appearance on the Gateway City stage.


Opening night of The Lion in Winter is fast approaching; what's your current mood?


It's going really well, it's going fine. It's been a really fast rehearsal process and very rich, very rewarding. Everybody is bringing a lot to the table so it's exciting. It's really exciting because you get to read about these people historically as you're trying to portray them. Because there's a lot of truth in the play; the situations that are happening are dramatic take offs on actual true people and true things that happened. So it's exciting to do that historical research as you're trying to create the role and the story for the audience.


The play serves as the narrative inspiration to the hit television series Empire, but I think a more apt comparison is this is House of Cards meets Game of Thrones


It is, it is. It's very much like those with all the politics and the back stabbing and the people trying to one-up everyone else. It's exciting and when you find those ways that are in the script to - you know, you have to work on it, at least I do, before it really opens up to me - and sometimes you have to deal with another person before you can figure out what is truly going on underneath all the lines. So that's the exciting process about the rehearsal process is finding out what everybody else is doing and how that influences what you're doing. It's an exciting process.


Many readers will be familiar with the classic 1968 film starring Katharine Hepburn and Peter O'Toole. Were you a fan? And how does the play differ from the movie?


That's real interesting because everyone who hears about the play has a reference point from that movie. I mean that movie was so iconic and of course, I remember it from when it came out, and I watched it a few weeks before we went into rehearsal just to see what was in it. It's fabulous - no question about that - with all those wonderful actors. But it's a different period of time now. The play is modern sounding. It was modern sounding in the 60s and it's modern sounding today. So I think it will be a very different experience and we're very different people and we have the residences of now - of the political world now - to play it out in. So it should be a totally different experience.


But it's funny - the people who quote the play - it seems like no one has seen the play on stage but they know it well. So many peopleLion3 have quoted lines back to me and they've all quoted them wrong. They have this idea of what the play is and what it should be. It's truly funny. When I put it on Facebook, so many friends wrote back to me with different lines or their take or what they remember about these lines and they were never the actual lines in the script. But they were very similar and I was like, wow, people really have a strong relationship to this story.


Could you tell us about your character and how you found your own voice as Eleanor of Aquitaine?


Reading the biographies, doing the research makes her a very real woman to me. So I'm finding my voice through that, plus she is larger-than-life and the things that she does larger-than-life. She was such an iconic, legendary character. Who knows what's actually true, but for her time, she was amazing. Especially for her time. I don't know exactly when she died, but she lived on into her 60s; she was a strong leader and traveled to the Alps and was a very physically strong woman and smart. So I'm finding my voice through my research and through the other characters and the relationships I have with them.


Looking at your theater credits, this isn't the first queen you've played.


Oh, that I played a queen?? I got to do Elizabeth I! She's one of the queens I've done and that was in Mary Stuart where Elizabeth and Mary got into a big fight. I got to do Elizabeth in that. That was great and another iconic one. She's great - that was the big one. And then there was a Shakespeare queen in one of the Shakespeare plays. I can't remember the title of it. It's one that's not done too often and I don't remember right now.


What do you hope audiences take away from seeing The Lion in Winter?


I hope that they will forget the movie and see it with different eyes. I think I hope they take away the family relationships, the story. Yea - I think the relationships with the sons and especially between Eleanor and Henry. That's a pretty spectacular, rich relationship.


Photography by Lon Brauer & Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

 

Tickets for "The Lion in Winter" start at $17.50 (previews) and $21 (regular performances). To purchase, visit The Rep Box Office, located inside the Loretto-Hilton Center, charge by phone by calling (314) 968-4925 or visit The Rep’s Online Box Office at http://www.repstl.org.

 

 

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