Life + Arts

History dictates female roles not ‘Compleat’ without male actors

Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company has done it again. Their newest performance, Compleat Female Stage Beauty, has comedy, drama and history all wrapped in one, pleasing the senses of all audience members.

Set in 1661 just before the Restoration period, the play tells the story of a time when law would only allow male actors to perform on stage, even the female roles, and the downfall of London’s infamous Ned Kynaston – the best female role-portrayer around.

The play tells the story of King Charles and his courtesan, Nell Gwynn, and her role in having the law changed. ‘

The new law forbidding men to portray females in the theater destroys the life of Kynaston, igniting rage and the need for revenge all while struggling with his professional and sexual identity. His purpose, lover and identity have been lost, and the women that made it happen must pay.

Jennifer Decker, artistic director of Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company and the producer of Compleat Female Stage Beauty, was excited when 30-year theater veteran Ron Jones presented the script to her.

‘When Ron approached me with this script, I wasn’t sure if it was right for Mildred’s Umbrella. We prefer the margins of theater and even venture into the outrageous,’ Decker said. ‘However, the chance to work with such a talented and well-known director made me want to give it a good read, and I was not disappointed.’

Decker offers high praise for the script and her enthusiasm in carrying it through.

‘ ‘This is a gorgeous script, and well within our mission. I am very excited to present it to the Houston audiences with such a talented director,’ said Decker.

Mildred’s Umbrella was started by Decker in 2001 while working with UH professor Dr. John Harvey. Harvey wrote a play, which Decker saw as an entrepreneurial opportunity and it took off from there.

Since then, Mildred’s Umbrella has produced several plays, three of which have been written by Harvey.

Compleat Female Stage Beauty opens at 8 p.m. and will run through Feb. 28, 2009, every Monday and Thursday through Saturday at Midtown Art Center at 3414 La Branch.

The performance on Feb. 19 will benefit the Houston Homeless Pet Placement League. Ticket prices are $13 general admission, $6 for students and seniors and ‘pay-as-you-like’ every Monday.’ For more information, visit their website at

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