QueenʼsMen Editions

About this text

  • Title: Shakespeare and the Queen's Men (SQM) Repertory Productions
  • Author: Peter Cockett
  • Textual editors: Andrew Griffin, Helen Ostovich
  • Coordinating editor: Michael Best

  • Copyright Peter Cockett. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Peter Cockett
    Editors (Text): Andrew Griffin, Helen Ostovich
    Peer Reviewed

    Shakespeare and the Queen's Men (SQM) Repertory Productions

    20Master Actors and Type Characters

    The SQM project hired three established professionals who were full members of the Canadian Actors' Equity Association to serve as the master actors in our company. In the original Queen's Men there were far more master actors than apprentices, but our arrangement at least established an element of hierarchy that approximated the Queen's Men structure. Each master actor was employed to perform a specific line of roles. As previously mentioned, Alon Nashman was hired as principal clown in the company, playing Mumford and the Messenger in King Leir, Derrick in Famous Victories, and Miles in Friar Bacon. Paul Hopkins played a line of young leads in the three plays: the King of Gallia in Leir, Prince Henry in Famous Victories, and Prince Edward in Friar Bacon. And Don Allison played all the old kings in the repertoire: King Leir in Leir, Henry IV and the King of France in Famous Victories, and Henry III in Friar Bacon. The rest of the company was composed of nine talented but less experienced actors who were not yet members of the union. In the original company apprentice boys would have been assigned to the female roles: Julian DeZotti, Matthew Krist, and Derek Genova were our company 'boys' specializing in women's roles, but also playing other roles. Later in the process we added two 'hired men' to fill out scenes as extras and play smaller roles in the plays we tackled after King Leir. For an extended discussion of the SQM casting of the plays and the doubling scheme used for the productions visit the Performing the Queen's Men website.

    Initially, the company looked to me for direction but as the process progressed they became increasingly independent and the master actors grew into their positions of authority, leading the creative-interpretive process in the rehearsal room. My interventions became less and less frequent, and increasingly focused on maintaining the political perspective of the original Queen's Men. I believe the work of the master actors resulted in the generation of a particular creative independence in the company that communicated itself subliminally as a sense of ownership and playfulness that is less likely to emerge when actors are working under an external, authoritative director. My annotations aim to track the development of the company's creative independence and give insight into our creative process as our company of modern actors learned to quickly interpret and stage these obscure Elizabethan texts.