Every Thursday, we round up Pay-Whats and other cheap seats at local theaters. Just so’s your weekend is a little easier.

Got a nice lineup of Pay-What performances and previews, but there’s also another staged reading that’s piqued my curiosity.

The rap on Shakespeare’s women (never mind Lady Macbeth) is that they’re not as richly drawn as his menfolk. John-Michael MacDonald would appear to disagree: From the sprawling epic that is Henry VI (three plays, gazillions of lines, all that bloody Wars-of-the-Roses business), he’s cut-and-pasted a “new” Shakespeare tragedy: The Tragical History of Margaret, Queen of England.

And next Tuesday evening, you get to be the first to see it. For free. (Details below.)

Here’s the backstory: Captured by the Brits on the same day as Joan of Arc, Margaret of Anjou gets shipped across the Channel to England, where—better to marry than to burn?—she becomes Queen Consort to Henry VI. (Who, incidentally, is probably already batshit at this point.) Saddled with a weak husband, Margaret learns to wear the pants—transforming herself, as MacDonald (quoting Shakespeare) puts it,

from a ‘downy cygnet’ to the ‘she-wolf of France.’ When rebellion breaks out, she reveals herself to be a ‘tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide,’ fighting mercilessly to save everything she holds dear.

To hear him tell it, MacDonald’s edit job lifts scenes and snippets from the Henry trilogy to create “a more intimate story of one woman’s struggle to survive and thrive in a world of men”; the prodigiously gifted Kate Eastwood Norris, who’s holding down one corner of the triangular mystery that is A Body of Water at Round House Theatre Silver Spring, plays Margaret in Tuesday’s staged reading. Also in the cast: Jonathon Church, Kim Schraf, Timmy Ray James, and more accomplished D.C.-based actors (though not, as originally advertised, Karl Miller, because suddenly he’s back in the cast of columbinus in New York—long story). So go check it out. I’m planning to.

Here’s the lineup, including Queen Margaret:

  • The David Dance, Trumpet Vine Theatre Company. Queers! Adoptions! Talk-show hosts! Nuns! Pay-What previews Thursday (tonight) and Friday at 8 p.m. Critics see it Saturday. At Theater On the Run, 3700 South Four Mile Run Drive in Arlington (next to Signature Theatre).
  • Caroline, or Change. Studio Theatre. Tony Kushner and smart young composer Jeanine Tesori tackle civil rights in ’60s Louisiana. There’s a singing washing machine. (No, really—and it works.) Julia Nixon stars. Pay-What preview Saturday at 2 p.m. Critics see it Sunday. At Studio, 14th and P Streets NW.
  • The Elephant Man, Olney Theatre Center. Scott Fortier reprises his much-praised performance as John Merrick in Jim Petosa’s expansion of his 2004 Catalyst Theater production. Pay-What preview Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. At Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road in Olney, Md.
  • The Tragical History of Margaret, Queen of England. Presented with support from The Kitchen, Round House Theatre’s theater lab. Details above. Free staged reading Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. At Round House Silver Spring, 8641 Colesville Rd in Silver Spring.