The Dark lady


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July 06 - July 23

World PremierE: The Dark Lady

By Jessica B. Hill | Directed by Rodrigo Beilfuss

Venue: The John Rayner Community Stage

PREVIEW July 6th



The Real-Life Woman Behind the Fantastic production

The protagonist of The Dark Lady, Emilia Bassano, is inspired by the real-life historical figure of Emilia Lanier (also Aemilia or Amelia Lanyer), who was born Emilia Bassano.

Emilia Bassano was born in 1569 in London, and was the daughter of a court musician. This is just five years after the birth of William Shakespeare in 1564 over 100 miles away in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Bassano’s position as the daughter of a court musician exposed her to the arts, and she had many connections to members of the court. Bassano was even romantically involved with Queen Elizabeth’s lord chamberlain for a time in her early twenties. 

From this connection, it is theorized that Bassano may have known some of the men in the London-based drama troupe, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. The troupe was headed by William Shakespeare, and so the chance of Bassano to have met, interacted with, and become acquainted with the Bard is highly likely. 

Perhaps it was from being surrounded by such artistically gifted men that Bassano decided that she, too, wanted to prove herself as an artist. Her collection of poems, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, became the first substantial volume of poetry written by an English woman and the very first feminist publication in England.

It is thought by some historians that Bassano may be the inspiration for the ‘dark lady’ in Shakespeare’s sonnets. 

A Message from Shakespeare in the Ruins…

…The Dark Lady, directed by SIR’s Rodrigo Beilfuss, is a dynamic duet that dismantles our conventional views on Shakespeare through the perspective of a dark-skinned contemporary of his, poetess Emilia Bassano – the possible ‘dark lady’ that appears in his sonnets. 

Bassano was trilingual, multiracial, a talented musician and the first Englishwoman to publish her own poetry. In the play, these two poets come intimately together in a love story about artistic collaboration, desire, and ambition. 

Stratford’s Jessica B. Hill, who delighted Winnipeg audiences this winter with her solo piece, PANDORA, is Emilia Bassano, while Winnipeg’s Eric Blais is William Shakespeare. The score is performed live by Spanish/Classical guitarist George Bajer-Koulack. 

The Dark Lady will be sensual, witty, insightful, and FUN. 


The David Edney Fund for Theatre


Shakespeare in the Ruins