Tag Archives: Elizabeth Huffman

Luisa Sermol on crafting Mary Queen of Scots in Mary Stuart

In three sentences, describe the character you play in Mary Stuart.

I play Mary Stuart, otherwise known as Mary Queen of Scots. Underneath the voluminous amount of history that describes her, she is, at her core, a woman of faith, passion, intelligence, and lover of beauty. Born in Scotland, and whisked off to France at age 6 (later Queen of France for a short time), Mary was well educated, charismatic, artistic,and refined. A rightful heir also to the English crown (as her cousin, Elizabeth was the daughter of a marriage not recognized by the Catholic church–Anne Boleyn to Henry Viii), no wonder Elizabeth was threatened by her, thus imprisoning her for 19 years, before the final step…

What is your favorite line in the play (yours or someone else’s) and why?

“I am your Queen” (obviously, to Elizabeth)

What is the biggest challenge for you to overcome in this role/play? 

As a Scot myself, I was brought up to idolize Mary Stuart. I didn’t really know why–just that she was unfairly killed by the English Queen Elizabeth. (I also grew up with a good humored enmity for the English–it seemed to have been built into Scottish history.) In taking on the role of Mary, and really having to bring her to life, one of the more curious challenges was to figure out her dialect. My romantic image of her would be, of course,to have a Scottish accent. But in my research, I had to come to terms with the fact that she was more French than Scottish. Although born in Scotland to Mary Guise (a French woman) and James V (King of Scotland)–her father died and in one of the first acts of protection, her mother sent Mary to France. Here she was brought up in a highly sophisticated court. She spoke mainly in French and was known to have thought of French as her first language (It is said that it is the language in which she thought and wrote). But she was also a highly intelligent woman,great at languages and also a musician.Therefore, she is able to adapt her language with ease (she can “code-switch”). I did a lot of research to just find her voice. I, myself, used to have a Scottish dialect when I first came to this country at age 3. I don’t have one now, except for a couple of words. Mary was 6 when she went to France, so there would be certain Scottish sounds that would stay with her. (She would not, for example, be unable to make the “h” sound in English–as so many French dialects might exclude. She would keep the flat “a” of the Scots). Ultimately, in exploring different options, when I spoke her words in a French dialect with Scots sounds, I felt more of what she must have felt like. More of a woman, not really all Scottish, not really all French. It made me feel like an outsider in England, in Scotland, and in France. And so, I have found the voice for my Mary.

If you could choose one song that represents this show for you, what would it be?

“The Girl with the Weight of the World in Her Hands” (Indigo Girls) (<- click the link to hear the song!)

What have been some of your favorite shows to work on in Portland?

This is a tough question! Each role has brought its own joy–whether working and getting to know fabulous creative people, taking on a huge challenge, telling a story that needs to be told.

What are your non-theater hobbies?

hmmm…my day job, being a mother to a 17 year old, and flying Southwest Airlines to visit my boyfriend in the Bay Area. When I have time, reading,making earrings, cooking, playing my viola.

What’s your favorite bar/restaurant/venue for post-show theater debrief?

What’s around the corner, or my parent’s dining room.

If you could dedicate your performance to someone, who would it be and why?

It would be to my mother, Dorothy, who has filled my life with love of Scotland. Among the many songs she sang to my sister and me, one always haunted me. It was “The Queen’s Maries”-a song about a lady in waiting to Mary (Mary had four ladies in waiting, all named Mary). Years later, when my daughter Isabella heard the song, she too was haunted and ended up writing an historical fiction novel inspired by it.  My mother’s voice is filled with the beauty and the passion and the love of the Scots and is someone Mary Queen of Scots would have loved.

Recording Original Music for Mary Stuart

Balancing the world of Elizabeth l with a contemporary sensibility, this production of Mary Stuart will feature an original score, composed by world renowned musicians Gayle and Philip Neuman. Recorded on Renaissance instruments, many of them built by the couple, then remixed electronically by sound designer Sharath Patel, the score is an uniquely provocative musical landscape that spans over the centuries supporting the story’s examination of women in power, then and now. Here’s a photo of the master musicians at work recording their original score!

MS Music session

Check out the preview for Mary Stuart

Click on the link below to see a 2-minute preview of the forthcoming Mary Stuart, presented by Northwest Classical and Cygnet Productions.

Mary Stuart Promo


Mary Stuart by Peter Oswald – opens February 27th



Northwest Classical Theatre Company and Cygnet Productions join forces to bring the Portland premier of the multi-award winning drama, Mary Stuart by Peter Oswald on Feb 27th- March 29th, 2015 at the Shoebox Theatre.

Nominated for 7 Tony awards in 2009, Mary Stuart, based on the original 19th Century classic by Friedrich Schiller, is a taut political thriller that examines the cost two women must pay when forced to choose between power and love.

Mary Stuart, a staunch Catholic, is imprisoned in England—nominally for the murder of her husband, Darnley, but actually because she has pushed her claim to the throne of England currently held by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth’s advisors urge her to sign the death warrant before Mary’s supporters succeed. The pen is poised when a request from Mary to meet her in person arrives, offering Elizabeth a possible way out and a chance to meet her famously beautiful cousin who threw her power away for love.

Starring two of Portland’s most powerful and multi-Drammy Award winning actresses, Luisa Sermol plays Mary, Queen of Scots and Lorraine Bahr plays Queen Elizabeth I. This production also will feature an original score, composed by world class musicians Gayle- Stewe Neuman and Philip Nueman and a stellar cast of NWCTC seasoned veteran actors.
Director Elizabeth Huffman returns again to NWCTC having directed last year’s critically acclaimed Lion in Winter and winning King John in 2012.

Director Elizabeth Huffman on Rehearsing Lion in Winter

When you have actors this good, the play sort of directs itself.  As we enter into our final two weeks, the entire cast is bringing on their A game, led with great skill and wit by the two formidable stage veterans Victor Mack and Marilyn Stacey. They, and all the designers,are all collaborating with terrific invention, heart, and lots of laughs. Before my eyes there is emerging a highly complex, politically ambitious, passionate, sexy, funny, utterly dysfunctional and very human family who all come home for the holidays.  We are calling to mind, and learning from, other ruling families, like the Roosevelts, Kennedy’s, Bushes and the royal British family today and the Obamas, all of whom have spent their entire lives in the global fish eye.  In this beautifully written play there is a cost to that kind of political and very public lifestyle. We see it all around us and the characters fit our NWCTC family like a glove. I am a lucky director and look forward to every rehearsal. Daisy is enjoying it too so you know that it is going well! See you all  at the theatre! Reserve your seat soon!


The Lion in Winter

The Lion in Winter

Rehearsals have begun for the winter show at NWCTC. Directed by Elizabeth Huffman, this production promises to deliver all the sizzling, juicy family drama you could wish for.