Medieval Times, the family entertainment venue that features a jousting tournament and sword fights in an arena setting, is taking a major break from their 40 year tradition of casting a king as the show’s lead role. The landmark restaurant and dinner theater introduced its first-ever female ruler earlier this year, therefore, giving one particular Montclair State alumna the opportunity to take on the role as the new ruler of the land. Tara Henderson ’04, an actress and singer, currently portrays Queen Isabella at Medieval Times’ Lyndhurst, New Jersey, location. In addition to her role at Medieval Times, Henderson is set to begin rehearsals with The Women’s Theater Company for Disenchanted, a musical where she will be playing Sleeping Beauty.
Her role as Queen Isabella has given her the opportunity to sing the national anthem at college and professional sporting events as part of the Medieval Times marketing program. In May, Henderson had the opportunity to sing the national anthem at a Philadelphia Phillies game in Philadelphia.
Ever since Henderson saw her first Broadway show at the age of seven, she knew that being on stage was what she wanted to do. She went on to pursue that dream as she attended Montclair State as a Theatre major. As an undergraduate student, she was actively involved in both the Theatre and Music department’s performance series, as well as the Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS benefit concerts that the joint departments produced.
During her time at Montclair State, Henderson took on an internship with the George Street Playhouse where she gained insight into the administrative and business side of theatre. She spent the summer before senior year abroad, studying at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, under the tutelage of actors Mark Rylance and Giles Block.
“My experiences at Montclair State gave me a wonderful foundation both academically and artistically which has helped lead me to where I am today,” she says.
Henderson credits two professors that have played an integral role in her development as an actress and a singer. “Not only did both Dr. Suzanne Trauth and Dr. Stephen Oosting’s guidance help me grow as an artist and help me pave the way for my professional success, but I have been very fortunate to be able to continue studying with them since graduation,” she says.
After graduating from Montclair State, Henderson landed an opportunity with the College Light Opera Company in Cape Cod. Afterwards, she went on to work with many reputable theatre companies, both regionally and in New York City, including Writers Theatre of NJ, The Women’s Theater Company, Centenary Stage Company, Bickford Theater, WorkShop Theater Company, Luna Stage, Theatrefest, Shawnee Playhouse, Shakespeare In The Valley, Thirteenth Street Repertory Company, American Globe Theater, and Metropolitan Playhouse. She has also landed lead roles in several independent films, and has done featured work on Law & Order: SVU and truTV’s Joker’s Wild.
In 2010 and 2014, Henderson earned New York Innovative Theatre Award Nominations for her performances as Hero in Much Ado About Nothing with the American Bard Theatre Company and Tottering in A Christmas Carol: A New Musical with the WorkShop Theater Company.
Henderson advises current students to enjoy their college years and take advantage of the resources available to them. “Take on an internship or apprenticeship while you are still in school to help build professional relationships before you graduate,” she says. “Trust in the wonderful training that Montclair State is providing and move forward in the world with great confidence.”