In 1981, Mary Stuart was produced in Los Angeles, directed by Jack O'Brien and starring Marsha Mason as Mary and Michael Learned as Elizabeth. It was described by the Los Angeles Times as " a dark, rich Baroque canvas of two great queens who can send the throne room to its knees with one look." In 1997, Richard Eyre staged Mary Stuart at London's National Theatre, translated by Jeremy Sams and starring Isabelle Huppert in the title role. Long-rumored plans for a film version, to have been directed by Richard Eyre and starring Meryl Streep as Mary and Glenn Close as Elizabeth, have recently been discontinued.
Three years ago, the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco commissioned a new translation by Village Voice critic Michael Feingold. Staged by A.C.T.'s Artistic Director Carey Perloff, it received its premiere in April 1998 to critical acclaim. The San Francisco Examiner described the production as "fervent and impassioned, as visually splendid as it is bold...filled with youthful energy and sexual vitality." Perloff and Feingold continued to refine the text for the Huntington production, which was produced in association with A.C.T.
While most dramatists throughout history have envisioned the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth as a dynamic clash of powerful wills, in real life the two queens never even met. Nevertheless, it is the mythology of Mary and Elizabeth which endures. According to historian Alison Plowden: "Elizabeth Tudor and Mary Stuart were trapped by history in a life and death struggle over which they had little control--cousins foredoomed to enmity by their blood and their birth."