A play surrounding two powerful and legendary women held immediate appeal for me. As I dove further into Mary Stuart and the story of two women pitted against each other, I was struck by the echoes of modern politics that ring loudly throughout the tale. When we turn on the television or click onto social media today, we’re subjected to constant attempts to sway opinion and hold power by controlling the narrative–essentially telling it your way, before someone else gets to tell it (and risk them telling it better). Though slick camera footage and high-powered marketing consultants may not aid them, there is no mistaking the efforts of our rival Queens to control the narrative—and through that, perhaps control whole nations.
Equally recognizable to a modern audience is the role of optics in the play. Both Queens and their advisors employ moments of pageantry and theatricality to influence perception and time and again choices are weighed not only based on what is right or wrong but on how the public will perceive an event or course of action.
Much has been written and many stories have been told about the contest of power and personality between these two famous Queens. While great dramatic license is taken with these historical figures, original German playwright Friedrich Schiller takes great care to not choose a clear side—I suspect harnessing his background as a lawyer, he ensures that both arguments are compelling and strong. But what I find most enticing is the plays’ interest in exploring what makes both these leaders human and therefore fallible; beyond the strength of this dialectic, we uncover a personal portrait of two dynamic women and how they were shaped by the burden of a shared desire to unify nations sharply divided by warring ideologies.
Shelley Butler, Director
This production is sponsored by:
Lawrence T. and Janet T. Dee Foundation
The Pioneer Theatre Guild