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The King and I

The King and I

Directed by Mary Bright and Richard Brousil
Produced by Brenda Townsend

Prince Maha Mongkut was born on October 18, 1804 in the kingdom of Siam (now called Thailand). His father, Buddha Loetla Nabhalai, become the king of Siam (King Rama II) when Mongkut was five.

Mongkut was a true monarch, with total power over his five and a half million subjects. He spoke English, French, and Latin as well as Siamese, Pali, and Sanskrit, although he joked once that some Englishmen “have not understanding of their own language when I speak.”

In his personal life Mongkut adhered to Siamese tradition, having 82 children by 39 wives. Nine thousand women lived in his harem, kept apart from the world in a separate city that they were seldom allowed to leave.

Mongkut arranged for the women of his court to be educated about the world beyond Siam. He allowed them to receive English lessons from Christian missionaries, but the Siamese women were bored by their preaching. So Mongkut’s consul in Singapore hired another woman, Anna Loenowens, to teach the king’s wives and children. She arrived in Bangkok in 1862.

This play is a fictionalized version of this story. They seldom sang Rodgers and Hammerstein songs during court functions.