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Stratford's Diane D'Aquila to reprise role of Elizabeth Rex in Chicago

TIFF, TIFF, TIFF - it's all you read about at the moment, in Toronto anyway. Well, to not entirely change the subject, here's a little news about Tiff, that is the late Canadian author and playwright Timothy Findley who went by that nickname.

Findley's play Elizabeth Rex - about a fictional encounter between Queen Elizabeth and an actor who plays Shakespeare's leading ladies - has been produced near and far since its 2000 premiere at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, from Michigan to Montreal, New York to South Korea. This November, it's popping up at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre directed by artistic director Barbara Gaines.

Those who saw Diane D'Aquila originate the part of Elizabeth I - or her Gemini-winning performance in the television adaptation - knows that any actress who takes on the role has big shoes to fill. So who will play it in Chicago in November?

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Well, while it hasn't been officially announced yet, it seems Chicago Shakespeare Theater's done a very clever thing - and has hired D'Aquila to come down and reinterpret the role herself.

D'Aquila, who was in fact born in the United States but has spent most of her career in Canada, delivered this news while I was interviewing her about her upcoming performance in Jean Genet's The Maids at Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times theatre last week. (You can read my Q&A with her in next Monday's paper.) She also spilled the beans about who will be playing Ned, the actor in Shakespeare's troupe originated by Brent Carver, opposite her: Shaw Festival star Stephen Sutcliffe, in yet more CanCon.

Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, of course, is a frequent home to Shaw and Stratford actors during their off-season. Ben Carlson played Hamlet there first before he did at Stratford, while other Canadian performers to grace its stages include Kelli Fox, Jim Mezon, Evan Buliung and Juan Chioran.

And Elizabeth Rex isn't even the only Canadian play to be performed at Chicago Shakes this season. This summer, Canadian composer/lyricist team Neil Bartram and Brian Hill (of Broadway's short-lived The Story of my Life fame) premiered a new musical version of Pinocchio there. It went over rather well, too. I wonder if a Canadian theatre like Young People's Theatre will give it a go one of these seasons?

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About the Author
Theatre critic

J. Kelly Nestruck is The Globe's theatre critic. More

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