The world premiere of Canadian novelist and playwright Timothy Findley's new work, Elizabeth Rex, opens June 29 at the Stratford Festival in Ontario.
The drama about the 1601 aftermath of the Earl of Essex's unsuccessful revolt against Queen Elizabeth I is right up Stratford's alley: The company's foundation, since its beginning in 1952, is the work of Shakespeare, the chief poet of the Elizabethan reign.
The play, with Brent Carver, Scott Wentworth, Peter Hutt and Diane D'Aquila in choice roles, depicts Elizabeth I spending a long night with Shakespeare and his troupe prior to the Earl's execution. The encounter is fictional. Following a presentation of Much Ado About Nothing for the pained Queen, Shakespeare and company retire to stables and are visited by the monarch. A debate about love, art, life, death, love ensues and lasts until dawn, when her former lover is to be executed.
Martha Henry directs the Stratford commission, being presented in the intimate, three-quarter thrust Tom Patterson Theatre. Performances continue in repertory through Sept. 30. Previews began June 21.
The cast features Damien Atkins as Tom Travis, Evan Buliung as Matt, Andrew Burr as Ben, Joyce Campion as Tardy, Brent Carver as actor Ned Lowenscroft, Diane D'Aquila as Queen Elizabeth I, Wayne Davis as Attendant/Watch, Pragna Desai as Attendant/Watch, Keith Dinicol as Percy Gower, Paul Dunn as Harry, Michael Fawkes as Luddy Beddoes, Aaron Franks as Ned's Tame Bear, Bernard Hopkins as Lord Robert Cecil, Rita Howell as Anne, Peter Hutt as William Shakespeare, Florence MacGregor as Lady Mary Stanley, Andy Pogson as Attendant/Watch, Rose Ryan as Attendant/Watch and Scott Wentworth as Jack. The script was workshopped at the Stratford Festival in 1997 under the direction of Paul Thompson.
Designers for the staging are Allan Wilbee (set and costumes), Louise Guinand (lighting) and Todd Charlton (sound). Original music is by Stephen Woodjetts.
Playwright Findley was born in Toronto in 1930 and began his career as an actor, appearing on Broadway, in London and Moscow. He gave it up in 1962 to focus on acting.
He first came to prominence for his novel, "The Wars." His other works include "Not Wanted on the Voyage," "Famous Last Words," "The Last of the Crazy People" and "The Piano Man's Daughter." In 1995, Stratford presented Findley's The Stillborn Lover.
For Stratford ticket information, call (800) 567-1600.
-- By Kenneth Jones