Elizabeth Rex

2014 Illinois Shakespeare Festival

Director: Paula Suozzi
Scenic Design: Kristin Ellert
Lighting Design: Sarah Maines
Costume Design: Lauren Lowell
Composer/Music Director: Shannon O’Neill
Asst. Music Director: Kieran Pereira
Choreographer: Jean Kerr
Photos: Pete Guither and Adam Fox

Cello: Adrienne Boni
Flute: Pamela Schuett
Oboe: Michelle Plunkett

This fictional play by Timothy Findley takes place after a performance of Much Ado About Nothing. Queen Elizabeth I attends the play on the eve of the execution of her lover, the earl of Essex, and then spends the evening backstage with the players and William Shakespeare to keep herself distracted. She laments that, as queen, she has always had to act the part of a man. In the meantime, Ned, who played Beatrice in the night’s performance has spent his life acting as a woman for his career and is suffering from syphilis, from which his lover has died.

Through the course of the play, Elizabeth and Ned make a pact: Ned will teach Elizabeth to act more like a woman if she will teach him to act more like a man. Meanwhile, Shakespeare observes an begins to pen Antony and Cleopatra, based on the Queen’s current predicament.

Much of the music in this production was thematic, based on the relationship that builds between Elizabeth and Ned. The play calls for several moments of dance. In those moments I collaborated with choreographer Jean Kerr to create music that fit the style of dance (galliard and pavanne) that was used in the show. The music with this slideshow is the theme for Queen Elizabeth. At one point in the show, Elizabeth puts on the Beatrice dress from Much Ado as she embraces her feminine side. After it is indicated the Essex has been executed, she returns to her Queenly attire. In our production, she dressed onstage and we saw her transition back from woman to Queen. In all, it took between 90 and 120 seconds for her to re-dress, and this piece underscored the moment.