The Heart of a King: Trials of Gloriana
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Elizabeth I Tudor is one of if not the most recognizable monarch in English history. There is, however, much ambiguity surrounding her choices and her motivations behind them. In some of her writings, she betrayed a sense of inner conflict regarding what we today would consider her gender role in society. Throughout her reign, she was caught in the middle of a battle between what society expected of her as a female and what society expected of her as a monarch. This thesis explores that battle in a dramatic format. The Heart of a King: Trials of Gloriana is the book for a musical telling of highlights from the life of the Virgin Queen.
This musical will feature songs that will connect vignettes of Elizabeth’s private life as they may have happened. The most important aspect of this musical, however, is Elizabeth’s physical representation. The character of Elizabeth is scripted to be played by a genderqueer actor or a feminine presenting male actor in order to visualize the difference between her and the other figures from that time. My goal for this project is to reexamine history many of us think we know completely and help provide queer representation in theatre.
The idea for this thesis comes from my interest in the queen’s gender anxiety. Throughout her reign Elizabeth was at war within herself. This was a war between the expectations placed upon her as a female and the expectations placed upon her as a monarch. Through various passages in speeches and writings made by the queen, we can discern that she did not feel like a woman in regards to what the gender roles of 16th century England dictated. In modern terms, we would probably refer to her as “non- binary.” This is the purpose for the queer casting of the role of Elizabeth. The purpose of this musical is to tell the story of Elizabeth Tudor while creating a visual representation of the gender related conflict occurring within her.
The events of the musical highlight important personal moments in the life of Elizabeth Tudor. Most of these conflicts depicted in the script are directly related to her marriage. One of the defining features of Elizabeth’s rule was the fact that she never married, which caused problems on both a personal and political level. Despite her not marrying, she maintained a very close (albeit turbulent) and arguably romantic relationship with her favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.
One of her main political adversaries was her first cousin once removed, Mary Stuart, or as she is more popularly known, Mary Queen of Scots. This feud involved an attempt by Elizabeth to marry her cousin to Dudley, a protestant rebellion in Scotland that may have been funded by Elizabeth, and the eventual abdication, imprisonment, and execution of the Queen of Scots.
By her side through many of her major conflicts is her most trusted councilor, William Cecil, Baron Burghley. These figures all play major roles in the script, as they all played major roles throughout the life of the Virgin Queen.
The script of the musical, which makes up the majority of this thesis, is a compilation of scenes that will serve as fence posts for the fence that is the entire musical. The fencing itself is the music that is not included in this thesis project.
The “fencing” I mentioned has not yet been written, but it has been outlined and brainstormed. The style of the music will be a mostly pop/rock musical theatre with the occasional touch of disco influence.
Many of the songs are going to highlight big moments in Elizabeth’s life that bridge or follow other major moments seen in the script. These moments will appear as big group/production numbers. These moments include the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, the execution of Mary Stuart, and the coronation of Elizabeth herself.
Other songs highlight more personal moments in Elizabeth’s journey and will provide emotional bridges from one scene to the next. These songs cover Elizabeth’s relationship with Dudley, her relationship with her own physical beauty, and her reflections upon her death.0020
The rest of the songs are either emotional songs for other characters or conflict songs. For example, conflict songs would highlight the feud between Mary Stuart and Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s controversial courtship of the Duke of Anjou. The former include Dudley’s lament about the unrequited love of Elizabeth.
These songs would serve as either plot bridges or emotional bridges in order to connect the non-linear vignettes of the script.
Following this thesis process, I am hoping to grow this musical into a fully realized production. Not only is it structured in a way that is unfamiliar to popular musical theatre, but it would provide much needed representation to trans and non-binary actors and artists, as well as viewers and audience members.