Episode 14 (Season 3) – “It’s good to be queen.”

Lorrisa Julianus as Queen Zenobia

Lorrisa Julianus as Queen Zenobia

Episode 14, Season 3, of Ancient Rome Refocused will be posted soon.  On EPISODE 14 titled “It’s Good to be Queen,” I interviewed Lorrisa Julianus and Craig Engel.  Lorrisa wrote the book and lyrics and starred in an original musical about the 3rd century Queen Zenobia.  Craig directed this sword

Craig Engel and Lorrisa Julianus

and sandal epic.  He is the co-president &  artistic director of Theatre-on-the-Hill, in Bolingbrook, Illinois.  A veteran, with an extensive military background, a medic with Navy Special Forces for Seal Team 8, he has the perfect combination of skill and spine to convinced the City of Bolingbrook to support the effort, bringing a multitude of activities into concert,  and turning gangly ‘spear-carrying’ 15 year olds into Roman Soldiers you can be proud of.   Lorrissa starred in the production. She appeared on the Bold and the Beautiful, and will soon be seen on Chicago PD.  Not only does she have a ‘Broadway’ class voice but has the physicality to make anyone believe that she could survive a sword fight, which should be no surprise since she is a ‘motion-capture’ actor for the highly successful Mortal Kombat computer gaming series. 


 You got to admire Lorrisa’s passion and tenacity to take this classical story of ‘late-empire’ and adapt it into a musical.   The show has love, passion, sword fights, spirituality, forgiveness, all at a time when the Roman Empire was split into the Gallic and Palmyran Empires.  I couldn’t help to think of the DreamWorks film THE PRINCE OF EGYPT while watching it.  The music was haunting.  

The composer was Angela Salvaggione.  The music is hard to get out of your head, and the music for the duet Who you Are is magical.  I am still humming it to myself.  The music for the production is haunting, and is perfect for this larger than life story.   


What of Palmyra?  It was centered between the Romans and the east.  It grew rich on trade and decided to build for itself an empire. It was a splinter empire that broke away form the Roman Empire in the period that was called the Third Century Crisis.  The Palmyrene Empire survived from 260–273, and acquired Syria, Palaestine, Egypt and large parts of Aisa Minor.


Lorrisa Julianus and  Angela Salvaggione taking Zenobia on as a musical subject is a bold move.  Western culture is Cleopatra obsessed.  Look how many times Cleopatra is remade over and over for every generation.  The list goes from Theda Bara  (find  a copy of the ‘lost’ silent film and you will make a fortune) through  Elizabeth Taylor to the soon-to-be-released Cleopatra film starring Angelina Jolie.    Zenobia may be new on the American psyche, but not in the Middle East.   A  different version of Zenobia’s story appeared in Dubai last April, with horses, camels and waterfalls appearing ‘live’ on stage.  Julianus and Salvaggione’s version is worth your time for it has the music and Lorrissa’s voice.  This is enough to transport anyone to another place and another time.    You can keep the camel. 

Man is a story-telling  creature.  The musical starts out with a telling by a Sybil, played with angelic qualities by Emily Seymour.  She sets the stage.  Isn’t that how every story should start?  “Once upon a time…” or “Oh Muse…” or “Far away..across the sea…”


There are too many ancient stories that fail to capture the imagination of the public, because they are JUST NOT TOLD.    Zeniobia is a subject ripe for song, poetry and musicals in Bolingbrook.   

If you are interested in learning more about this eastern queen check out Empress Zenobia, Palmyra’s Rebel Queen, by Pat Southern or  the book A Chronicle of Zenobia, The Rebel Queen by Judith Weingarten.

Here are some links:


Want to read about the director Craig Engel?


Want to read another author about Zenobia?  She has a great blog.


Want to read about Lorrisa Julianus as artist?


Want to know more about Theater on the Hill in Bolingbrook?


Want to read about Zenobia the musical?


Want to read more about the Bolingbrook opening?




  • Jeremy M. · March 23, 2014 · 2:29 am

    As a humble member of the cast, I would like to say a very forthright thank you to my fellow cast-mates, the crew who assembled all elements of the production, the teams of people who worked tirelessly behind the scenes, and especially to Lorrisa, Craig, Angela, and Michael, who all placed their devotion, trust, and creation into the hands of so many of us on- and off-stage.

    Zenobia is a magnificent work of art and I am honored to have participated, contributed, and assisted the team in all our efforts to make Lorrisa’s dream come true.

    Even after months of rehearsals, trials and triumphs, a very successful opening, and having viewed the production on DVD, many insights are to be found in the interview posted here.

    Lorrisa and Craig present her vision with great humor and all the powerful vocals, performance, and production quality that Zenobia encompasses.

    This unique production, with its innovative touches, surprising moments that delight and thrill the audience, further developed and enhanced throughout this initial production of the musical, should be a high priority on any ambitious Theatrical or Film Production Company’s to-do list.

    A hearty entertainment with laughs and tears – all the more dramatic and delicious to the eyes, ears, and emotions.

    While I do not wish to speak for the rest of the cast, but only for myself in support of all involved, I must say that I would drop everything just to reprise my role, if ever asked, at any time in the future, be it next week or in 20 years.

    Thank you,

    –Jeremy “Ashur” M.

  • Geode Press · January 27, 2015 · 6:36 pm

    Lorrisa portrayed Zenobia perfectly. I wasn’t able to attend the musical in person but I watched it on DVD and loved every minute of it. We are happy to see more and more people take an interest in Zenobia’s story. Like Cleopatra, I think her story will inspire and entertain. When asked who Zenobia is, I say, “Zenobia is the greatest female in history you’ve never heard of.” I hope this musical and your article can change that. Thanks for sharing.

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