IF YOU GO
What: “Arthur and Merlin: The Making of a King”
Where: Victorian Players Theater, 702 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and July 30 and 31
Info and tickets: 330-782-4322
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Ever since high school, Carol Weakland has been passionate about the tales of King Arthur.
“It speaks to me,” said the Youngstown theater veteran. “I feel so connected to the characters and themes.”
In what has become the crowning achievement of her career, Weakland has written a trilogy of plays based on King Arthur — the first of which will be presented this weekend and next at Victorian Players Theater.
She began the project 12 years ago and is thrilled to see it finally come to fruition.
Wearing a flowing dress that might have looked at home in Arthurian days, Weakland met with The Vindicator to discuss the project that has been the mainspring of her artistic life.
“Over the years, it almost happened, but this is the right time and place,” she said. “I feel I have a cast that fits the characters, and I want to keep them for all three parts.”
Weakland is known for doing one-woman shows on area stages, most recently “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.” She said she enjoys going back in time to earlier days. “I see more magic in the past,” she said. “You can use your imagination more.”
In the daytime, the naturalist- interpreter introduces children to nature through storytelling and programs at Mill Creek Park’s Ford Nature Center.
Weakland directed a well-received outdoor production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” last summer at Morley Pavilion in Mill Creek Park. Many of the actors in that play are also in the Arthur trilogy.
After the run at the Victorian closes, Weakland will take “The Arthurian Trilogy Part One: Arthur and Merlin: The Making of a King” to the Pierce Opera House in Sharpsville, Pa., and Main Street Theater in Columbiana. Nothing is set in stone after that, but she hopes to present Parts Two and Three within a year.
Weakland, who also plays Morgen in Part One, said the story is drawn from the earliest Arthurian tales.
“People don’t know the early stories,” she said. “Morgen was first a fairy goddess but became maligned over the years. She became an evil sister in later stories.”
In Part One, King Arthur is mortally wounded, and Morgen tries to heal him though a dream spell that lasts three nights. During that time, Arthur tells his stories.
The role of Morgen is not a major one, but Weakland called the character “my alter-ego.”
Part One actually has been done before — six years ago at the Oakland Center for the Arts. Weakland still had many of the costumes from that production, but unfortunately, most didn’t fit the current cast.
She said she’s had to downsize some scenes to accommodate the smaller Victorian stage. “It’s working,” she said. “There aren’t quite so many combatants in some [sword-fighting] scenes because we can’t have more than six batting it out at once.”
Her brother, Dennis Weakland, is combat choreographer.
The Arthur trilogy is classically themed, but Weakland said it’s not classical theater. The dialogue is accessible, although there is some old English dialect in it.
The play will appeal to younger people who are into “Harry Potter” or sword-and-sorcery tales, she said.
The Broadway musical “Spamalot” also has stirred up interest in King Arthur. Weakland said her cast is familiar with the Monty Python stage comedy, and routinely breaks into “Spamalot” hijinx during rehearsals.
The cast for Part One includes Kyle Merritt as King Arthur; Jennifer Milligan as Vivian, Lady of the Lake; Larry Latsko as Merlin; Jason Ensor as Prince Arthur; Adam La Benne ad Cai; Valorie Dunch as Morgause; Michael McGrail as Lot; Sam Barton as Urien; Joe Asente as Bedivere; Justine Asente as Mordred; Alex Hagood as Princess Morgen; Denise Bayer as Guenevere; Rollin MacNamara as King Uther; and Jennifer Milligan as Queen Igrainne.