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MARY, SWEET MARY | Q&A with the Playwright

by Dramaturg/Observing Director Lara Brinkman

Mary, Sweet Mary is a new play written by Emerson senior Munroe Shearer. It tells the story of Queen Elizabeth I of England as she comes to the final days of her reign. If she wishes to come to terms with the regrets of a life of unimaginable privilege, she must overcome a conniving counselor, rustlings of revolution, the vengeful spirit of Mary, Queen of Scots, a raving poet speaking to the walls of a prison cell, and the most formidable enemy of all: herself. 

To gain some insight on the themes of Mary, Sweet Mary, and learn more about Munroe himself, Dramaturg, Lara Brinkman, sat down with him for a short interview.

  1. What’s your experience with playwriting in the past?

“It’s honestly not extensive. I come from a narrative nonfiction background in writing doing sociology work. Doing playwriting classes at Emerson was my first foray into it. I wrote one play for that, which I was really proud of, and sort of got the bug. Mary, Sweet Mary became my summer project after that.”

  1. What made you interested in Elizabethan England, and Marlowe specifically?

“I was on a wikipedia odyssey one night over the summer. I started reading about the mystery behind his death. I latched onto that story and his homosexuality, the spying… all the really interesting things about his life. That morphed into an interest in the world of England at that time. I watched a lot of documentaries about Queen Elizabeth I.”

  1. You explore homosexuality in the 16th century between both men and women in this play. Can you tell me more about that?

“So, very much the era of Elizabethan England was very anti-homosexuality, very religious. They were in the transition between being a Catholic nation and being a Protestant nation. Marlowe was gay and lived with his lover Thomas Kyd for many years. That’s always treated as one of the sort of points of intrigue in his story. What was very important to me in writing a historical script that did include homosexuality is that in 2023, in the United States, at a progressive liberal institution, we are sort of past a direct and present need for plays where characters are directly persecuted for being gay. I’m not saying that this need is ever completely alleviated… but I think it was important to me that every element of Elizabeth and Marlowe’s stories were about everything other than their queerness while still allowing their queerness to be a defining part of their story.”

  1. If you could tell everyone coming to see this show one thing before watching it, what would you tell them?

“My gut instinct was ‘pay attention.’ Because I think that in collaboration with Joe and the actors and the designers and the creative team, there’s a lot of nuance to be had that we’ve built on purpose, and the closer you watch for little nuggets the more you’re gonna get out of it. It’s a brilliant team of creatives in putting this show together.”

  1. How has it felt getting to see your play be worked on at Emerson?

“Crazy. It still hasn’t stopped being surreal. Coming from a costume design background, the Mary, Sweet Mary audition room was the first Emerson Stage audition room I’ve ever been in. Watching everyone who auditioned be so good and make such good, smart, wonderful artistic choices with work that I had put together months before… it never stops being surreal that you get to collaborate in that way. Lots of gratitude. Just, always.”

Come see join us in Elizabethan England for MARY, SWEET MARY, running March 2-5 in the Greene Theater (Tufte Performance and Production Center).

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