NewFest 2023: Rod Parker Playwriting Award Winner Production

MARY, SWEET MARY Or The Final Tragedy of Christopher Marlowe

By Munroe Shearer ’23
Directed by Joe Antoun

In the final days of his life, playwright Christopher Marlowe is wrapped into a revolutionary plot which brings him nose to nose with Queen Elizabeth I, haunted by the many sacrifices of a long and terrible reign. The play examines grief, regret, and the eternal push and pull between true artists and those who see their existence as a threat.

March 2–5, 2023
Greene Theater

All performances open to the public

Run Time: 90 minutes, no intermission

Content Advisory: This play includes the use of stage blood and prop weaponry (a knife), and conversations of violence and death.

Sensory Advisory: This production contains occasional loud noises and high-pitched ringing, as well as flashing/flickering lighting effects. 

A note on COVID safety: Please know that as an audience member for any of our performances, you will be required to wear a mask and present your vaccination card before entering the performance space. Additional safety requirements may be added at any time at the discretion of Emerson College, the City of Boston, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Any prospective ticket buyer with concerns about health safety protocols is encouraged to call our Box Office at 617-824-8400.

Creative Team

Scenic Design

Harvey Johnson

Costume Design

Ava-Sofia Settoon

Lighting Design

Oliver Hawke & Oakley Walker

Sound Design

Tim Scalzo

Props Lead

Mariel Richardson


Kailey Pelletier


Coming Soon

A note from the
Director, Joe Antoun

Welcome to NewFest 2023, Emerson Stage’s annual celebration of new works. It is an honor to present to you the Rod Parker award-winning play Mary, Sweet Mary, or The Final Tragedy of Christopher Marlowe, Munroe F. Shearer’s surprisingly complex, melodiously poetic, and strikingly human play about risk, loss, love, consequence, and perception of power. In other words, our personal humanity.

Historical dramas are often written to shed light on current life. Set in England in 1593 when Elizabeth I was on the throne, the play depicts a world where violence means power and economic class defines people’s worth. Munroe has re-imagined history. Elizabeth struggles to find her humanity at the risk of losing her power. She is entranced by the lovelorn playwright Christopher Marlowe whose words empower the common people. All are haunted subconsciously by the ghost of Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth’s cousin whom she had sentenced to death for treason. Mary, Sweet Mary, or The Final Tragedy of Christopher Marlowe blends iconic characters, beautiful language and an action-packed plot. This is a passionate play where matters of the heart cause individuals to a roll the dice no matter how favorable the odds.

One of the great joys of directing Mary, Sweet Mary, or The Final Tragedy of Christopher Marlowe is due to the very brisk plot which drives the play. A seemingly small and safe action, motivated by love, sets into motion a flurry of events that render gigantic and tragic consequences. It brings to mind many plays throughout history but this story seems oddly current as the characters struggle to find love and power and risk their lives to get it. As Mary Queen of Scots says in the final scene, “They work quickly these days, in Elizabeth’s England.” Traveling this imagined journey with these complex characters and hearing their poetic voices makes for a wild ride. I hope you enjoy it.

About the Director

Joe Antoun is the founding Artistic Director of Centastage where he has developed, directed or produced over 70 new plays including six Boston Women On Top Festivals of new plays by women and four Boston Sings Boston cabarets of new songs. Mr. Antoun is on the directing and acting faculty at Emerson College where he serves as the Artistic Director of NewFest. This is his 21st NewFest show. He is a recipient of the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Kenneth A. McDonald Award for Theater Excellence. He is a proud member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC) and a board member of the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund (TCBF).

A note from the
Playwright, Munroe F. Shearer

Every year, nestled in the mountains of rural New Hampshire, there is a heritage festival that attracts Scots-people from all over the Northeast to don kilts, eat overpriced meat pies, and belligerently head-bang to Celtic rock music for a weekend. Malcolm Forbes, my late maternal grandfather, took great pride in being one of these Scotsmen. Some of the fondest memories of my childhood would be made sweating in the bleachers, watching him march back and forth while my brother and cousins and I ate British candy and relentlessly pestered my mother to let us explore the fairgrounds.

Thus: my introduction to the Scottish iconography of Mary, Queen of Scots. At some point, I acquired a tiny metal figurine of her, ostensibly taken from a chess set, that sat in my childhood bedroom for a decade or more. Her mystique intrigued me, as the legends of few other historical figures are able to convey martyrdom and villainy in such a deliciously even dosage. Even as Elizabeth I became the centerpiece of the story, I knew that her and Mary’s relationship had narrative threads to be pulled in a thousand masterful directions. Once I was introduced to the debaucherous and fabled life of Christopher Marlowe, everything fell into place.

Marlowe’s position as an overlooked queer icon, the legends of Mary’s treachery,  Elizabeth’s eternally complex relationship to country and legacy, and the modern necessity to upend our established histories helped Mary, Sweet Mary evolve into a script that is not only deeply prescient but wonderfully affecting to delve into. Like every one of us, the characters contain multitudes: each as flawed as they are earnest. Their lives are dictated by the choices that they make, and they are forced to reckon with the consequences as a result. I hope that you can walk alongside them as they love, lose, and explore the paths that will define their lives. Find the childlike wonder of historical imagination, and allow it to open your heart to the stories that this boundlessly talented cast and crew so passionately tell.

This play is for the child at the Highland Games. And for Malcolm.

With all of the love in my heart,

About the Playwright

BFA ’23 Theatre Design/Technology. Select Emerson Stage credits: The Spitfire Grill (Costume Designer), The Late Wedding (Costume Designer), Going to California (Costume Designer). Upcoming: Our Dear Dead Drug Lord (Mercutio Troupe). Massive thank you to Joe, Kailey, Clarke, and the massively talented cast and crew of this beautiful project. Additional thanks to C, T, J, S, and all of my endlessly patient friends and family who have listened to me scream about Elizabethan history for the last year, the support means the world.

A note from the
Dramaturg, Lara Brinkman

Mary, Sweet Mary explores the power dynamics between royal and commoner in Elizabethan England. The play follows Queen Elizabeth I and explores her anxieties over her legacy, her duty to her people, and her intrusive thoughts taking the form of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Christopher Marlowe, a young playwright recently in trouble with the law.

Elizabeth I, daughter to King Henry VIII and Anne Boelyn, was born in 1533, narrowly avoiding execution at birth due to a failed rebellion against the English throne. When she ascended to the throne in 1558, she established a golden age for art and expression, supporting the careers of writers who are now household names, such as William Shakespeare.

Mary, Queen of Scots was a cousin of Elizabeth I, but despite the two’s lifelong feuding, they never actually met. Mary believed she held claim to the English throne, and unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow Elizabeth. At the age of 25, Mary was imprisoned by Elizabeth, and was held for 19 long years, being transferred from prison to prison. At 44, after being abandoned by her country and her son, Mary was sentenced to death by Elizabeth.

“It is said that after her execution, when the executioner raised the head for the crowd to see, it fell and he was left holding only Mary’s wig.”

Christopher Marlowe, famous playwright of the Elizabethan Era, and Thomas Kyd, a lesser-known playwright, shared lodging together in the 1590s. The relationship between the two was one of romance and passion, and thought to be homosexuality. In 1593, a pamphlet was found in Thomas’ possession, denying the deity of Jesus Christ and calling for the blood of the Queen. He immediately blamed possession of the pamphlet on Marlowe, who was soon after arrested and taken to the Tower of London. As a sign of respect for the work he had done earlier for the Crown, (including spywork and intelligence operations against Catholic plots) Marlowe was released two days later, with a trial set to assess his crimes in the coming weeks. While free, Marlowe went to a bar with friends where, during a heated argument as to who was to pay the bill, Marlowe was stabbed in the eye, resulting in his death. 

Francis Walsingham, a devout Protestant, served under Elizabeth I as Ambassador to France, Member of Parliament, and eventually, Personal Spymaster to the Queen. He ran intelligence operations, most of which were aimed at keeping the Spanish attempts to usurp the throne at bay. He and Marlowe were distantly related, most likely cousins. Because of this, he would consistently work with Marlowe and hire him for missions. He died of testicular cancer at 58. The news was delivered to King Philip II of Spain via letter. The letter read:

“Secretary Walsingham has just expired, at which there is much sorrow.”Upon receiving the letter, the king, who held a particular disdain for Francis, added in the margin, “There, yes! But it is good news here.”

The only character in this show not based upon a real person is Agnes, chambermaid to Elizabeth I. Writing a play based on historical events can be quite restricting. But through Agnes, Mary, Sweet Mary is able to take creative liberties as to the relationship between her and Elizabeth, and the effects of that relationship on the rest of the characters.

Mary, Sweet Mary acts as a lens into our past and focuses on queer expression that, despite historical attempts at its repression, endures for centuries. It helps us reflect on the people and artists that came before us, and how our contemporary times have not changed the human experience as much as we might think.

I hope you enjoy the show!

Meet the

Mary — Beyoncé Martinez
Agnes — Alexa Poplawsky
Thomas — Alexander Serino
Marlowe — David Staats
Elizabeth — Christine Strong
Francis — Kaiyang Zhang

Meet the
Artistic and Production Staff

Assistant Director — MATTHEW GUERBER
Assistant Director — RUOCHEN HU
Directing Observer — JACK WHITLOW
Directing Observer — LARA BRINKMAN
Assistant Technical Director — ANTON SANTIAGO
Assistant Costume Designer — DAVID ESTABROOKS
Wardrobe Supervisor — ALEX SAVERY
Assistant Wardrobe Supervisor — ANNA TEN EYCK
Assistant Lighting Designer — CHIRON SPIEDEL
Production Electrician — DAVIS KRANCHALK
Lead Electrician — JO WILLIAMS
Assistant Lead Electrician — RYAN TSE
Assistant Sound Designer — MATTHEW DANDINO
Production Sound Engineer — MADDIE HANLEY
Assistant Stage Manager — DELENE BEAUCHAMP
2nd Assistant Stage Manager — HALLE HART
Production Assistant — KYLAH NEE
Production Supervisor — ALEX TAWID DI MAGGIO
Assistant Production Supervisor — JAMIE NICKERSON
Company Manager — OLIVIE RETTEW
Assistant Company Manager — MADELINE THORPE
Assistant Company Manager — YANG NING
Run Crew

Cast Bios

BEYONCÉ MARTINEZ (she/her) — Mary

BFA ’24 Theatre and Performance. Emerson Stage debut! Other credits: Mercutio Troupe’s The Trial of Errors (Raya); Teatro Chelsea’s Black Girl Joy (BabyGirl), and Temporary (Vecina/ Odalys); Company One’s can i touch it? (Ruth); and Open Theater Project’s My Body No Choice (Roxanne “Roxy” Rodriguez). Thank you to all my besties out there!

ALEXA POPLAWSKY (she/they) — Agnes

BFA ’24 Theatre and Performance. Emerson Stage debut! Emerson College credits: Mercutio Troupe’s A Hanukkah Story (Dot Garber) and emShakes’ Macbeth (Lennox). Film credits: Intermission (Robbie), Their Bow (Gina), And Again (Nora), Small Talk (Bellamy), Charlie Rackett and the Evil Sorcerer Killer (McKenna), Matched (Kayla), I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (Alaina). I feel so immensely grateful to be here and to work with such a talented group of creatives. Thank you to my family, Hayley, and all of my wonderful friends at Emerson for supporting me both in life and my artistic career.

ALEXANDER SERINO (he/him) — Thomas

BFA ’24 Acting. Emerson Stage credits: The Spitfire Grill (Caleb), Three Romances… (Understudy, Joey), Next To Normal (Henry), and NewFest Short Works: Temperature (Mike). Emerson College theatre credits: Musical Theatre Society’s Big Fish (Don Price) and Tavern Song (Assistant Scenic Designer); Full Fathom’s Exposed (David); and Mercutio Troupe’s Dance Nation (Scenic Designer). Other credits: Weston Drama Workshop’s Indecent (Avram) and The SpongeBob Musical (Spongebob); and Gruesome Playground Injuries (Director). Sending thanks to my parents, my brother and my awesome friends! Stay epic!

DAVID STAATS (he/him) — Marlowe

BFA ’25 Theatre and Performance. Emerson Stage debut! Emerson College credit: RareWorks Theatre Company’s To the End of the World (Charlie). Thanks to my friends and family.

CHRISTINE STRONG (she/they) — Elizabeth

BFA ’23 Acting. Emerson Stage credits: Baltimore (Understudy, Fiona) and NewFest Short Works: Kings (Gwen). Emerson College credits: emShakes’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream! (Oberon/Hippolyta) and Much Ado About Nothing (Ursula); Kidding Around’s The Curious Incident… (Roger); Full Fathom’s Fefu and her Friends (Christina); and Mercutio Troupe’s Together Under Sunshine (Devised Ensemble). Thank you to the brilliant cast and crew for their hard work and smiles, Munroe Shearer for shaping beautiful words, and Joe Antoun for the chance to bring those words to life.

KAIYANG ZHANG (he/him) — Francis

BFA ’25 Theatre and Performance. Emerson Stage debut! Emerson College credits: Tavern Song (Breeze), Romeo and Juliet (Tybalt), and Emerson Fights AIDS Cabaret (Host). Thanks to my friends and family for their love and support.

Creative Team Bios

HARVEY JOHNSON (he/him) — Scenic Designer
BFA ’24 Theatre Design/Technology. Emerson Stage credits: Going To California (Scenic Assistant), Marie Antoinette (Props Assistant), As You Like It (Scenic Assistant), The Spitfire Grill (Co-Props Lead), and Old Jake’s Skirts (Scenic Artist). I want to thank my family and everyone who worked on this show with me! I’m very excited to share all of our hard work with you all!

BFA ’24 Theater Design/Technology. Emerson Stage credits: Old Jake’s Skirts (Co-Props Lead), The Wolves (Assistant Scenic Designer), Into the Woods (Assistant Props), Baltimore (Scenic Painter), RAGE (Assistant Scenic Designer). Emerson College credits: RareWorks Theatre Company’s sub (Props Lead) and Full Fathom’s Fefu and Her Friends (Props Lead). Thank you to my friends for the support!

AVA SOFIA SETTOON (she/her) — Costume Designer
BFA ’24 Costume and Production Design for Film. Emerson Stage credit: The Secret in the Wings (Costume Assistant). Emerson College credit: Long Lost BFA Film (Costume Designer). Thank you to Tristan, Richelle, Becky, Laurie and David! Another huge thank you goes out to my wonderful and supportive family, love you guys!

OLIVER HAWKE (he/him) — Co-Lighting Designer
BFA ’24 Theatre Design/Technology. Emerson Stage credits: The Spitfire Grill (Co-Production Electrician), RAGE (Assistant Lighting Designer), and Baltimore (Assistant Lighting Designer). He is predominantly a props and electrics technician, but is excited for his first Emerson Stage design.

OAKLEY WALKER (they/them) — Co-Lighting Designer
BFA ’24 Theatre Design/Technology. Emerson Stage credits: Paris (Lead Electrician), Old Jake’s Skirts (Assistant Lighting Designer), The Spitfire Grill (Props Assistant), Three Romances for the Unwell and Otherwise (Lead Electrician), Marie Antoinette (Assistant Lighting Designer), Interior of the Artist without her Sister (Assistant Lighting Designer). Other credits: Musical Theatre Against the Grain’s Rock of Ages (Lighting Designer) and Saybrook Stage Company’s Heaven Can Wait (Props Manager). Thank you to the whole crew, friends and family for all your support especially my Co-LD Oliver, I appreciate you.

TIM SCALZO (they/them) — Sound Designer
BFA ’23 Theatre Design/Technology. Emerson Stage credits: Cabaret (Assistant Lighting Designer), Paris (Production Electrician), Old Jake’s Skirts (Scenic Designer), Three Romances for the Unwell and Otherwise (Props Lead), RAGE (Co-Production Electrician/Programmer), and This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing (Fly Chief). Emerson College credits: 2023 Emerson Recognition & Achievement Awards (Technical Production Director/Scenic Designer), 2022 Emerson Recognition & Achievement Awards (Co-Technical Director/Scenic Designer/Production Electrician). Many thanks to my parents for always believing in me and supporting my passions!

KAILEY PELLETIER (she/her) — Stage Manager
BFA ’24 Stage and Production Management. Emerson Stage credits: Are You Someone to Somebody? (Associate Production Supervisor), This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing (2nd Assistant Stage Manager), Spring Awakening (Production Assistant), Marisol (vMix Technician), and Men on Boats (Run Crew). Other credits: Theater at Monmouth’s Sofonisba (Stage Manager), Age of Bees (Stage Manager), and Daddy Long Legs (Assistant Stage Manager). Kailey would like to thank all of her friends and family for their support.

BFA ’25 Theatre and Performance. Emerson Stage credits: RAGE (Props Lead) and The Loyals (Peggy Shippen). Emerson College credit: RareWorks Theatre Company’s And She Dwelt Upon The Wall (Assistant Director).

Meet the
Emerson Stage Staff


Artistic Director — Annie G. Levy
General Manager — David Colfer
Assistant General Manager — Joshua M. Feder
Production Manager — Timothey Sullivan
Interim Production Manager — Deb Sullivan
Technical Director — Kristin Knutson
Props Director — Ryan Bates
Costume Shop Supervisor — Richelle Devereaux-Murray
Resident Sound Designer — Elizabeth Cahill
Head Carpenter — Connor Thompson
Scenic Carpenter –– Raven Whyles
Scenic Painter — Joe Keener
Sound Technician — Steven Deptula
Assistant Costume Shop Supervisor — Becky Thorogood
Draper/Cutter — Laurie Bramhall
Assistant Properties Manager — Lauren Corcuera


Stage and Production Management — Debra A. Acquavella
Scenic Design — Luciana Stecconi
Scenic Painting — Joe Keener
Costume Design — Tristan Raines
Lighting Design — Scott Pinkney
Sound Design — ​Elizabeth Cahill
Fight/Intimacy — Ted Hewlett
Dramaturgy — ​Marissa Friedman
Interim DramaturgyAlexandra Juckno

Student Staff

Emerson Stage Office Assistants — Alex Tawid Di Maggio, Jake Tolentino, Esther Chilson, Karli Fisher, Carly Mentis, Samantha Duggan
Production Management Assistants — Carleigh Allen, Olivia Tighe, Blake Berggren
Videographers — Xiao Chen and Juanes Serrano
Scenic Technicians — Casper Apodaca, Jonah Barricklo, Sean Dougherty, Marco Giacona, Emerson Hart, Davis Kranchalk, Dylan Norris, Mercy Suarez, Elise Tuckwood
Scenic Artists/Painters — Sofia Goldfarb, Fernando Rueda, Elizabeth Fuire, David Staats, Katherine Kendrick, Sarah Stevens, Alex Mollo
Paint Shop Assistant — Sophie Hartstein
Prop Shop Assistant — Delene Beauchamp, Amaya Gonzalez-Mollmann, Oliver Hawke, Mariel Richardson, Ava Scanlon, Mercy Suarez
Stitchers — Amaris Rios, Ava-Sofia Settoon, David Estabrooks, Dom Letterii, Greta Morgan, Lorence Jones-Perpich, Munroe Shearer, Tayla Dixon, Trixie Ward
Dye/Crafts — Ariel Coleman
Costume Shop Office Assistant — Zhiyan Jin
Laundry Assistants — Angelina Parillo
Stock Attendants — Lucile Lyon, Megan Decker, and Aleah Bloom
Light Lab Inventory Assistant — Piper Phillips