This weekend, “Mary Stuart — A New Translation” by BT Hayes ’22, featuring Regan McCall ’22, will take the stage at the Wallace Theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts Complex.
In “Mary Stuart,” the title character, Queen Mary Stuart, is imprisoned in a tower in England while her cousin Elizabeth I struggles and attempts to maintain her throne on the isle. Meanwhile, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester is torn between the two queens, Mary and Elizabeth. At the same time, hell is breaking loose in England as traders lurk in the shadows, waiting to assassinate the Protestant Queen Elizabeth and free the Catholic Queen Mary Stuart.
According to the description of the show on the LCA website, in this new translation and adaptation of the Friedrich Schiller play, “duty collides with the will of the masses, and two powerful rulers meet face to face in a story of death, betrayal, and hope.”
The show is a thesis for both Hayes, who is a Comparative Literature concentrator with prospective certificates in theater, musical theater translation, and Hellenic studies, and for McCall, who is an Operations Research and Financial Engineering (ORFE) concentrator with prospective certificates in French and theater.
In an interview with The Daily Princetonian, Hayes explained that the inspiration to create a new translation and adaptation of Mary Stuart partially came from McCall.
“Regan felt very strongly about doing this play called Mary Stuart, which is by Friedrich Schiller and is originally from the late 18th, early 19th century,” Hayes said. “When I was trying to figure out what I was going to do for my thesis, I saw this play and thought that it was quite cool, and realized that it came from Germany, which is my less-good language that I don’t get to speak often.”
Hayes then asked McCall if she could retranslate and direct the play, and McCall was “totally down.”
McCall designed the set for the show and is playing the role of the titular character.
“I love history, I love period dramas. I think that they’re overdramatic in the best way possible,” McCall said in the interview with the ‘Prince.’ “I wanted to do a show about royalty for my thesis, and I found Mary Stuart, which I thought is really interesting, because that period of time that this play covers is the most commonly skipped over period of time in Stuart’s life.”
“It’s really cool to read a story about women who get to have all the power, yet feel powerless at the same time,” McCall added.
Hayes put the show through a lot of changes. She first explained that she had to cut the show from four to two hours.
“We wanted to change because classical theater is hard and we don’t want it to be boring, but we also want to maintain the original story and vibes of the original characters that exist within the play,” Hayes said.
“What we’re really lucky about this show is that it’s Weimar classicism, high drama, and the people are super shady and super entitled in the play, which kind of fits the vibe of an Ivy League institution,” Hayes added.
Hayes went on to explain that Weimar classicism is focused on ideas of escapism, and bringing an ordinary character to experience extraordinary circumstances.
“That’s a big thing that Schiller really thought was powerful about the theater that he liked,” Hayes said.
She compared ideas of escapism in the presentation of the monarchy and German principalities to escapism in COVID-19, specifically in the summer after the online Spring 2020 semester, where people were upset with others who would go out to parties and clubs.
“Escapism is directly correlated from a capitalist society and all this labor structure, so the escape becomes an out-of-mind experience of hedonistic dance for the body,” Hayes said.
This led Hayes to make the play rave-themed.
“It has choreography, it has headbanging, it has harnesses, mesh, fishnets, all kinds of stuff,” Hayes said. “It’s based on rave culture and taking from Berlin raves, and the techno world can be brought together with German aesthetics.”
To fit the rave theme, Hayes also changed the meter of the verses in the play, from blank verse in German to the typical translation of iambic pentameter in English, to iambic tetrameter.
“It follows the bass beat more easily and fits the musical underscoring of the play,” Hayes explained.
In creating the set for the show, McCall explained how she and Hayes were brainstorming ideas last summer in Manhattan.
“I remember we were at dinner and she was telling me about her vision and 30 seconds later I drew the set design on a napkin,” McCall said. “I took the napkin home after a very long night out and that’s basically the set design that we have today.”
Another part of the adaptation that Hayes pointed out is that Mary is played by McCall, a Black woman, in opposition to Elizabeth, played by Kate Semmens ’22, who is white.
Hayes explained how often Black artists will be siloed instead of being allowed to experience their race on stage without the lens of a racially-based plotline.
“Because [McCall] is a Black body and because I am a Black writer, this is already a Black show without having to be something by a Black writer that’s not in translation,” Hayes emphasized.
McCall explained that she feels a deep connection in stepping into the role of Mary.
“Someone who has had so much of her life taken away yet still holds so much power in that she doesn’t lose herself, even if she’s lost all aspects of her life, and it doesn’t feel like she’s grasping for control,” McCall started. “I aspire to be in a situation where everything is out of my control and yet I still feel inspired to make decisions about my life.”
Hayes and McCall went on to explain reasons that people should see the show.
“You can go to formals, come to this show, and go back to your formals, and you’ll still have been partying because the music is crazy. It’s a rave,” Hayes said.
“It’s nothing that the LCA has done before,” McCall said. “It’s an experience that you won’t really get from screenplays on campus. Everything is turned on its head.”
“The show starts off with a Spanish song and ends with a German song. And then everything in between is in English, but it also has Greek theater and structures of a German play, as well as American ideas of the Black body and suffering,” Hayes said. “If you want to experience the Culture (capital C), you should come.”
“Mary Stuart — A New Translation” has performances on Friday, April 22 at 8 p.m., and Saturday, April 23 at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are available for free on the University Ticketing website.
Lia Opperman is an Assistant News Editor and Contributing Writer for The Prospect at the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at email@example.com, on Instagram @liamariaaaa, or on Twitter @oppermanlia.