Elizabethan tale: New play covers legendary queen’s final days

March 2019 Posted in Arts, Culture & History

Elizabeth Keyser will play Queen Elizabeth I. Submitted Photo

By James Day

Silverton playwright, poet and musician Christopher Wicks will explore the final days of Queen Elizabeth I in Death Comes for Her Majesty, a new one-act play to be presented March 24 in the Mount Angel Abbey Library auditorium.

Wicks will be honoring Elizabeth on the 416th anniversary of her death, which came March 24, 1603.

“I have always found Elizabeth an impressive figure and a touchstone for my own sense of English heritage,” Wicks said. “Elizabeth was a highly educated and shrewd woman, a skilled speaker and writer in both poetry and prose and sincerely concerned with the intellectual controversies of the era.

“A close look at the period shows an alarming mixture of religious, political and personal motives among almost all players on the scene. It is easier to judge them but more honest to admit how their sins resemble ours.”

Wicks said he wrote the play “in a three-day flurry” in May 2018. The text consists entirely of 49 sonnets, each of which uses a Petrarchan rhyming scheme.

Wicks, who describes himself as a “near-compulsive sonneteer,” said he had “considered blank verse or alternating sonnets and other forms, or passages in form and free sections, but as soon as I had written the first line of text, in iambic pentameter, I knew that I wanted to continue with a cycle of sonnets.”

Elizabeth, played by Elizabeth Keyser, receives a series of seven visitors during the play. Wicks will play one of them, with the other actors including Aage Nielsen, Steven Slemenda, Efrain Diaz-Horna, Carrie Caster, Benjamin Seeber and Father Teresio Caldwell.

The costumes are by Poppy Shell, about whom Wicks said he “has been very helpful in putting together an approach to costumes which is neither purist nor drab, which will engage the eyes and without bankrupting my budget.”

Nielsen and Marjory Lange will provide a musical prologue for the play, with Nielsen on doucaine and Lange on viola, playing a pair of English folk songs composed by Wicks.

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