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A Q&A with Playwright Madhuri Shekar

Meet Madhuri!

Get to know the playwright of Queen, Madhuri Shekar! We talked with Madhuri to learn about the inspiration behind her show and to ask some fun, bee-themed questions!


Playwright Madhuri Shekar. A Southeast Asian woman with dark, curly hair smiling at the cameraQ: What inspired you to create Queen?

When I was in grad school for playwriting, I was roommates with a research scientist doing her PhD in organic chemistry. For the first time I realized how similar the life of a scientist is to a life of an artist – the same sense of relentless work, reliance on grants and funding, uncertainty in terms of ‘results,’ and burnout. But also the deep love for the work itself. And I realized I had a way into writing about what it was like to be a research scientist, especially in grad school.

Q: Why did you choose to center the story on colony collapse as opposed to other research topics?

Honestly, at first I tried to write about organic chemistry then realized that no one could explain organic chemistry to me. Including organic chemists. It was another friend of mine (an ecologist) who suggested I write about bees instead. “Everyone loves bees.” And that opened up the right world for this play.

Q: Why did you choose to focus Queen heavily on scientific integrity and ethics, especially as they relate to women in STEM?

I wanted to write about two best friends and colleagues who worked beautifully together until work got in the way of their friendship. How would our relationship look in the world of STEM? I was imagining me and my best friend, who is a very close writing confidant, and a past and future collaborator. What could possibly happen that could put a relationship like ours in jeopardy? In figuring out how that would happen in the world of research, this particular theme of integrity, and a personal honor code, kept coming up in the conversations I was having with scientists.

Q: What is it like to see your story come to life? What are you most proud of with this script?

I love how funny it is, which I didn’t know until I started seeing it performed. I am so proud of creating a character like Arvind. I still can’t believe I pulled it off. He’s a blast.

Shonita Joshi as "Sanam" and Saiyam Kumar as "Arvind" in rehearsal

Jordan Trovillion as "Ariel" and Shonita Joshi as "Sanam" in rehearsal

Q: The show covers the topic of honeybees, so what is your favorite honey-related item?

Honey Nut Cheerios.

Q: As long as it’s properly stored, honey can last thousands of years and has been found perfectly preserved in Egyptian tombs. Would you eat 3,000-year-old honey?

No. I have bad memories of straight honey. My mom would crush and mix my medicine in honey and feed it to me because I refused to swallow pills.

Q: Describe Queen in five words or less.

🐝 👩‍🔬 👩🏾‍🔬 📊 ⁉️

Q: What are your thoughts on the tremendous change in theatre in the last 2 years regarding how theatres think and act about representation and producing new work?

Representation matters in the make up of your boards as much as if not more than it matters on stage. I want theatre organizations to look at who they’re really working for and who they’re really serving.


See Madhuri’s work brought to life when Queen hits our stage, February 22 – March 19, 2022!