Mary Stuart Turns History into Thrilling Suspense

February 28, 2020 | By Nora Holland

On Feb. 19, the Studio Theater was transported back in time to 16th-century England as Northeastern students performed Friedrich Schiller’s Mary Stuart, directed by Professor Antonio Ocampo-Guzman. The story dramatizes the tale of Mary, Queen of Scots, in the final days of her life.

Mary Sturat courtesy of Northeastern The

Photos Courtesy of the Northeastern Studio Theatre

Set in a dimly lit theater with a stage stripped of any props, the audience was immediately greeted by actors roaming the aisles as they found their seats. After briefly honoring the natives of Massachusetts, the story began with the dramatic entrance of Queen Elizabeth of England. With a whimsical melody and her subjects at her beckoning, the Queen performed a dance as other actors joined her on stage to transition into the first scene.


The scene opens in the middle of a quarrel between Sir Amias Paulet, Mortimer, and Hanna Kennedy as they fight over the subject of Mary’s innocence. The actors explore the space, roaming across the full stage and making eye contact with audience members as they argue as if to gather validation. All discussion is silenced when Mary, played by fourth-year theatre major Carla Mirabal Rodriguez, enters the scene, her head held high with her shoulders back proudly. She reveals that she was imprisoned both because of her role in her husband’s murder and her claim to the throne in England. Although she holds onto what she thinks is right, Mary has little hope to escape fate — until Mortimer approaches her and reveals he is on her side.


Mortimer, played by second-year computer science and theatre double major Ezekiel D’Ascoli, is starry-eyed and raw with passion for Mary, treating her as if she is a holy being above all people. The look of insanity in his eyes is both captivating and terrifying. Mary is pessimistic but gives Mortimer a letter to deliver to the Duke of Leicester, played by fourth-year computer science and theatre major Matthew Hosking, with the ultimate goal of meeting the Queen to delay her death warrant.

Although the play is based on the real story of Mary’s death sentence, the actors did not let the audience relax for a single second. They were not afraid to break the fourth wall and get into people’s faces as they all raced toward their objectives. Each scene blended together with one surprise after another as the characters revealed more of themselves and their dark sides to the audience, like Elixabeth as she strays away from her duties and morals and succumbs further to societal pressure and her own personal goals. The dramatic personifications of the characters turned a historic story into a suspenseful thriller, and the dynamic relationships between the characters kept spectators at the edge of their seats. 

Mary Stuart courtesy of Northeastern The

Photos Courtesy of the Northeastern Studio Theatre

One of the most interesting themes of the play is Queen Elizabeth’s struggle to gain control of her own throne. Elizabeth, played by fourth-year media and screen studies and theatre combined major Christelle Iliza Girimana, had the power and grace to completely silence a room, yet when alone it is revealed that she can also be weak. The hardships of being a woman ruler are demonstrated as she argues with herself whether to give up her freedom in the name of an alliance with France, bringing an element of feminism into the plot. This, along with the gender-bended roles of William Cecil and Sir Amias Paulet, modernized the otherwise old-fashioned show.


The lighting and music played an important role in setting the tone of the play. Each scene seems to be lit with a new color, often accompanied by whimsical music in the background. This brought an almost mocking tone to some scenes, bringing out the theme of deception that is present throughout the plot. 

The cast and crew of Mary Stuart did an incredible job portraying an old tale in a fresh, modern way, leaving the audience shocked by just how deceptive people can be.