Who was Anne Boleyn? It depends on who you ask. History and popular culture have portrayed the mother of Queen Elizabeth I in colors ranging from scheming social climber to innocent victim. English playwright Howard Brenton, in his play Anne Boleyn, sees her as somewhere between those extremes. Brenton, a self-proclaimed member of the Anne Boleyn cult, has added a religious dimension, positioning Henry VIII’s second wife as a key player in England’s transition from Catholicism to Protestantism. Brenton claims that Anne was ahead of her time; he remarked in a 2010 Independent article that she helped “detonate a religious upheaval which culminated a century later in the Civil War.” Anne Boleyn premiered at Shakespeare’s Globe in London in 2010 and was revived in 2011. The play is making its stateside debut at the Gamm Theatre in Rhode Island (Jan. 17-Feb. 17), giving Americans a history lesson that extends beyond “The Tudors.”
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