“The Queen and the Rebels” presents question of dignity

James Matthew Wyatt playing the part of Raim in "The Queen and the Rebels"
Elizabel Riggs playing the part of Argia in "The Queen and the Rebels" | Photo by Heather Porter
Elizabel Riggs plays the part of Argia in “The Queen and the Rebels” | Photo by Heather Porter

“The Queen and the Rebels” focuses around a diverse group of travelers: peasants, a priest, a prostitute, an engineer and a few other frightened travelers. There were many legends about the queen, stories about her brush with death, her intimidating gaze and the power of her very presence. She had gone into hiding, so the legends said, but no one knew if she were dead or alive.

Throughout the play, the characters and the audience are constantly wondering who the queen is. As the play continues,  the question of what makes a queen is formed. As one of the characters is harshly questioned and intimidated by Amos, she responds saying:

“What I want to do is go outdoors as if it were a fine morning… Someone approaches me with the usual rudeness, and someone else, and someone else. But this morning, I don’t even hear them. I’m not afraid anymore. My face expresses dignity. I am as I would always have wished to be. And it would have been enough to want to be. Palaces have nothing to do with it.”

In the post-show conversation with members of the cast, Director David Burke and Scott Huelin, director of Honors, the audience was able to listen to the different perspectives and comments of the cast on the show, as well as ask questions or make comments of their own.

“The fascinating thing to me about this play is the dramatic tension around ‘Okay, well who’s the queen?’ and the fact that the audience is in the same position as nearly everybody else on the stage of wondering ‘Well, okay who is the queen? Which one of these people is the queen?’ and there’s so many potential candidates early on in Act 1,” Huelin said. “The dynamic of the dramatic tension around the question of the queen’s identity, I think, is really fascinating.”

Huelin then asked the audience if they were confident at the end of the show who the queen really was; the audience response was largely unclear.

Huelin continued by discussing what he called the fundamental questions of the play, dealing with dignity and who is worthy of respect. Huelin referenced a line by Argia speaking to the matter.

“Because, of course, the play is fundamentally asking the question about, ‘What does it mean to have dignity? Who is worthy of respect? Is it possible that a prostitute may in many respects be at least as worthy of respect, if not more so, than a queen?” he said. “There were so many great lines, ‘Dignity has nothing to do with palaces,’ right? Those were the lines that Argia articulated. And especially we came to this crucial moment where she comes to the realization that maybe our dignity, to some degree, resides in our freedom to say yes or no, freedom to make our own choices and to stand behind those choices and to be responsible for those choices.”

“The Queen and the Rebels” will be presented in the W.D. Powell Theatre March 10-15. Show times are 7:30 p.m. March 10-12 and March 14-15 with a 2:30 p.m. matinee March 13. Tickets are $7 in advance and $9 at the door for general admission, or $4 in advance and $6 at the door for students, faculty and staff.

Image courtesy of Heather Porter