As It Happens

'She is not beholden to anyone': Meet the 1st queen of Medieval Times

Medieval Times has cast a woman in the lead role for the first time in its 35-year-history — and Queen Maria Isabella will soon be coming to Canada.
Queen Dona Maria Isabella, played by Allyssa O’Donnell, is the first female lead at the Medieval Times dinner theatre. (Submitted by Medieval Times)
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Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament has cast a woman in the lead role for the first time in its 35-year-history.

Behold Queen Maria Isabella, the queen of the realm and host of the knightly tournaments performed for excited crowds at the themed dinner theatre chain's nine faux castles in the U.S. and Canada. 

"It means we finally at Medieval Times have a queen in charge of the kingdom," Allyssa O'Donnell, one of four actors who plays the queen at the Medieval Times in the Schaumburg suburb of Chicago, told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"She is the sole ruler of the realm. She is not beholden to anyone and she rules the way she sees fit. She tries to rule with fairness and honestly and justice, but she is in charge, which is very exciting."

It's a big step up for O'Donnell, who previously played the role of princess.

"I have had so much outpouring of love with the audience responses," she said.

"I've gotten so many good, sharp 11- and 12-year-old girls coming up to me saying, 'I like the way you stood your ground.'

"I had a grandmother come up to me the other day saying, 'It's so wonderful seeing a strong woman up there on the throne and having to share this with my grandchildren.'"

Allyssa O’Donnell, out of costume, poses with her equine co-star. (Submitted by Medieval Times)

The queen, O'Donnell said, is "not only a woman in charge, but a woman who does what she believes is right."

"There's a moment in the show where everyone else is encouraging her to go against what she believes in," she said.

"And she looks at everyone, and realizes that, even though everyone around her believes this, she still knows what's right and so she has the courage to stand up and say, 'No, I will fight for what I believe in.'" 

The new female-led script by Leigh Cordner was months in the making. It debuted in Dallas on Oct. 19, 2017, before moving onto Schaumburg and will eventually roll out to all nine of the chain's locations — including Toronto. 

The knights are still played by men — but that, too, could change.

"Who knows what future shows can include?" O'Donnell said.

Queen Dona Maria Isabella and her court — the newest cast of the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament. (Submitted by Medieval Times )

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