For the first time in its 34 years history, the realm inside Medieval Times—the North American dinner theatre chain known for its jousting tournaments—will be ruled by a female.
His majesty the king is no longer, as her majesty, Queen Dona Maria Isabella, leads the show.
Actress Erin Zapcic, who has been with the company for seven years, is one of several actresses performing the role at the show’s Lyndhurst, New Jersey location, which recently debuted the new storyline and is the third location in the chain to do so.
Zapcic has played many a princess in her years there but only now does she consider herself a role model.
“Previously we would have a princess who would be daughter to the king, or wife of the prince,” Zapcic said from her throne during one of the cast’s last run-throughs before the queen’s debut. “We have a woman who is ruling completely on her own, and that’s really amazing.”
She says she feels a certain responsibility now.
“My favorite part of the show is seeing these little girls come in in their princess dresses,” Zapcic said. “They just kind of stop and they look at you with these big eyes and they throw their arms around you.”
Its especially timely, she says, in the context of the nationwide reckoning over sexual assault and equality for women.
“I think we are seeing a turning of the tide, and it’s really, really exciting to be part of that.”
But Leigh Cordner, creative director and writer, said it wasn’t their intent to make a statement and be “part of a dialogue” and that the script for this new queen-centric storyline was actually in the works long before the news surrounding Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo campaign exploded on social media.
“It just happens to be a coincidence that female empowerment is front page news right now,” Cordner said, adding that empowerment is, at times, front and center in the new show.
“She has a line in this show that says that ‘the decision lies not with you or you or any other man in this realm it lies with the queen and the queen alone. And I am queen here.'”
So far audiences seem to be responding positively.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Myra Ledee, who brought her granddaughter Brianna to the queen’s debut. “I hope that when girls come to see something like this or even when they see a woman in power that would encourage them that they could do something great in the future.”
“I love seeing [female empowerment] on any platform possible when it comes down to it,” said Holly Logan, who brought her toddler Violet.
“What we are kind of seeing now [with the #metoo movement] will be that upswing of positivity that she has to look forward to. And hopefully in my heart I’d like to think she’s never going to know any different than something like this, so it’s great.”