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‘Zenobia’ tells story of ancient warrior queen

“Zenobia” will be performed by Theatre Hill Aug. 30-Sept. 2. | File photo

“Zenobia” will be performed by Theatre on the Hill Aug. 30-Sept. 2. | File photo

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♦ Aug. 30-Sept. 2

♦ Tickets, $15

♦ (630) 908-2538

Updated: August 30, 2013 9:54AM

This Labor Day weekend, you have the chance to get educated about a warrior queen.

Bolingbrook’s Theatre-on-the-Hill presents “Zenobia,” an original musical written by Bolingbrook’s Lorrisa Julianus and composed by Angela Salvaggione of Joliet.

It premiers at 8 p.m. Aug. 30 and 31 and at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 1 and 2 at the Bolingbrook Performing Arts Center.

The show, which stars Julianus as the title character, is based on the real life of the warrior queen of Palmyra (a metropolitan oasis in ancient Syria).

In the story, Zenobia was a slave who married a king and led an uprising against Rome and was captured and sold into slavery again.

“In those days, being a woman was tantamount to being cattle,” director Craig J. Engel said.

“The version Lorrisa wrote … takes real history and adds entertainment value to it. It was would be very comparable script-wise to ‘The Prince of Egypt’ or movies that really empower women.”

The on-stage action is accompanied by extensive computer graphics as well as video filmed throughout Chicagoland and south Florida.

Julianus is a scholar of ancient Roman and Egyptian history, and she used that knowledge to shape and craft the script. She’s also Engel’s wife.

“A lot of the characters are actual historic figures. Zenobia is actually a historic figure,” he said.

“She is regarded very, very highly in Syrian history because she led an uprising against Rome.”

When it came time to cast the musical, Engel admitted it was a little tougher to get folks out for something they weren’t familiar with. But they have a loyal core of actors who love to work with Theatre-on-the-Hill, he said, in addition to new folks who weren’t afraid to take a chance on the unknown.

“They all were leery because it’s not like you can go download the soundtrack, because it’s all new,” he said.

“It seemed more daunting than doing ‘Oklahoma’ or ‘Fiddler;’ this was a brave new world getting this thing off the ground.”

The cast of 40 is doing “amazingly well” with the material, he said.

“The story has intrigue, it has romance, it has swordplay and it has mythical figures,” he said.

They did a free showing of “Zenobia” during Bolingbrook Jubilee a few weeks ago, and it went better than he could have ever dreamed, Engel said.

“Everybody was just blown away,” he said. “It exceeded everyone’s expectations.”

The show also stars many other Bolingbrook residents, including Scott Bovaird, Bonnie Bovaird, and their sons, Spencer and Campbell; Victor Rachel, Sharon Hand, David Lichty, Bill Smith, Kayaun Pierce, Julie Guida, Dominick Guida, Jonathan O’Brien and Matthew Bockus.

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