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The Dark Lady was developed at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center in July 2023, in a 60-hour workshop with full Broadway cast. Previous works developed at the NMTC include In the Heights, Avenue Q and The Wild Party.

This was followed by a 29-hour reading at MT West (Los Angeles) in January 2024 and a 2-week residency at Goodspeed Musicals, as part of the Johnny Mercer Writers Grove, in February 2024.

UPCOMING: A full presentation at the Greenville Theatre SC, August 10th 2024, as part of the South Carolina New Play Festival.

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Development History



About the Show



As you enter the theatre, you feel that you could be in the Globe; there's something recognisable, and yet tantalisingly new... a sense that you are about to experience something you have not seen or heard before. As they did in 1590.


You're greeted by a greek chorus of "Shakespeare's" most remarkable female characters. They wear timeless dresses made of scrolls, filled with the names of the people who have played them over the centuries. These characters are eternal; will outlive us. This is a story about something larger than ourselves.


You are thrown into the story of their creator, Emilia Bassano. Her tale is told at exhilarating break-neck pace; her brilliance, her passion, her fight to be seen. You watch as her life inspires the creation of her characters, each one introduced with their own unique sound-world; you are meeting them as never before. It's thrilling, endlessly entertaining, at times breathtaking. And when Emilia falls in love with the stableboy and aspiring actor, Will Shakespeare, you fall with her.


And then you watch the beginnings of a history you know... when Emilia makes the deal to put Shakespeare's name on her plays, instead of her own, in order for them to be seen.


If Act 1 mixes history, comedy and romance, then Act 2 introduces new twists and turns and tragedy into the mix. We're in the era of Macbeth. Emilia and Will fall apart, and any hope for recognition that Emilia has, vanishes. Your heart may break. But then, unexpectedly, it will heal. Because the ultimate tragedy is not Emilia's anonymity. In fact, Shakespeare's ending is the tragic one. For his life of fame and acclaim is false, meaningless, empty. Emilia, on the other hand, chooses to let her characters live on, knowing that she will forever be seen through them; knowing that by creating them she has done something true. The name, perhaps, is irrelevant.


The show aims to challenge audience perspectives on what it means to be a success. It is not how we are known, but what we do, that matters.


The Dark Lady was described by the Eugene O’Neill Center team as “joyful and moving, with effervescent wit and lush score”. The show has enough historical accuracy and attention to word-play to thrill any lover of Shakespeare, but it’s ultimately a universal story about passion and love, betrayal and sacrifice. It’s a show for lunatics and lovers and poets alike.

Shakespeare & Bassano



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It is a well-known theory that William Shakespeare was not - or could not have been - solely responsible for all of the works he was credited for. Other writer's names have been tossed into the ring as the potential true authors of the works... but it is hard to explain why any of them would have swapped their name out for Shakespeare's.

But what about Emilia Bassano? A radical and a poet, living in a time when women were not permitted to be involved in theatre. Historians believe that Emilia was the inspiration for the Dark Lady sonnets; that she and Shakespeare were lovers. Some speculate that Shakespeare plagiarized her works. But we speculate that this extraordinary woman took matters into her own hands; orchestrating the arrangement in order to have her plays seen.


This musical is a mix of historical fact and speculation. Every part of it could be true. There are enough easter eggs to tantilise anyone with an intimate knowledge of Shakespeare's life, whilst thrilling those who are learning this for the first time. 

The Writers



Whilst musicals centring women's stories are on the rise, there are still startling few that are actually created by women themselves. So Sophie and Veronica have been able to use their own experiences as the inspiration for Emilia's tale. From fighting for space, to devotion to craft, to being overlooked or objectified, to passion, love, grief, friendship, injustice, obsession and all things in between. The result is a story that will speak truly to anyone who has longed for their voice to be heard.

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