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A Woman’s Rule: Review of The Harlem Classical Theatre’s production of Fit for a Queen

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Sheria Irving as Senenmut, April Yvette Thompson as Hatshepsut, Photo Credit: Harlem Classical Theatre

Sheria Irving as Senenmut, April Yvette Thompson as Hatshepsut, Photo Credit: Harlem Classical Theatre

 

During the last few years, the Classical Theatre of Harlem has produced some of Shakespeare’s plays. But in their most recent production, they have traveled far into the past with Shamieh’s Fit for a Queen, whose action takes place at the time when the Abydos Passion Play was still in performance. This text survives carved on the Ikhernofret Stela that dates back to 1868 B.C.E. and is the earliest account of a yearly sacred performance, which took place between 2500 and 550 B.C.E. in the city of Abydos in ancient Egypt. It tells the story of Osiris’s murder by his brother, Set, and how his sister/wife, Isis, and Anubis bring him back to life. Osiris does not live for long, but his son, Horus, conceived through Osiris’s union with Isis, defeats Set and establishes the long line of pharaohs who ruled throughout Egyptian history. Rachel Dozier-Ezell’s fantastic costume design not only reconstructs an imaginary ancient Egypt through the crowns, jewelry, and clothing worn by the characters; but it also sets the action within the mystical performance of Osiris’s story through elements such as the golden testicles worn by the pharaoh in the play to symbolize his status. According to myth, Osiris used a golden phallus to impregnate his sister/wife Isis and so she is able to give birth to Horus and the long lineage of future Egyptian pharaohs. In the play, the golden testicles pass from Thutmose II to Hatshepsut when she becomes queen, recognizing Isis’s own representation in the future of Egypt. Furthermore, Shamieh’s use of modern English with phrases from our urban reality inevitably turn the play into a comment on current times. The Classical Theatre of Harlem’s production of Fit for a Queen not only references the origins of performance in Ancient Egypt, but also comments on how the historical U.S. presidential elections of 2016 will possibly conclude with a woman defeating a weak man only interested in his own aggrandizement and personal satisfaction. The show played in October at the 3LD Art & Technology Center in New York City.

 

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