music in the park san jose

.Queen at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley

A pair of scientists wager on what’s at stake

music in the park san jose

“I really wanted to write a story about female friendships, because I hadn’t seen that, and specifically female friendships in a professional setting,” says Queen playwright Madhuri Shekar. “That was my life. I am very close to my friends.”

While roommates with an organic chemistry Ph.D. student at USC, she realized scientists are a lot like theater people: Both fields are devalued by capitalism, and academics in both disciplines tend to think deeply about their work and form close bonds with their coworkers and colleagues. 

“I do not have a scientific background,” laughs Shekar. But, “coming from India, I had many female friends who were scientists and were pursuing [doctorates] either in the US or in India,” says the young playwright, who studied her own craft at USC and Julliard. Both artists and scientific researchers only tend to go into their professions when “delusionally passionate” about the ideas that led them there. 

Born in San Jose, Shekar grew up mostly in India, and has lived in Singapore, London, LA and now New Jersey. She did a lot of the research for Queen by talking to female friends who had careers in science, as well as drawing from her own close friendships with women writers. 

She thought about her best friend, and “what’s the worst thing that could happen to us?” and the central story of Queen was hatched. 

Characters Sanam and Ariel are Ph.D. candidates researching the worldwide collapse of bee colonies. A flaw emerges in their research, causing a conflict among the two on whether to “withdraw their findings or compromise them to save the planet.” 

The story centers on a female applied mathematician and doctoral candidate, Sanam (Uma Paranjpe), and another woman named Ariel (Kjerstine Anderson) who is a Ph.D. ecology researcher, nontraditional student and single mother. They both dream of breaking the glass ceiling in academia. But when they disagree on how to proceed with the flaw in their research, the stakes get high—their friendship, careers and even an arranged marriage are at risk, and the collapse of the bee colonies are reminders of the impending threat of ecological collapse. 

Queen is directed by Miriam Laube, who spent many years with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and is beloved by the playwright. Paranjpe has acted in everything from Broadway’s Life of Pi as the titular character, to “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix. Kjerstine Anderson has performed with diverse companies such as Oregon Shakespeare Festival and California’s ACT. 

Shekar has written for stage and screen. Her previous play, A Nice Indian Boy was adapted into a film with Jonathan Grof and Karan Soni. Her Hollywood writing credits include a screenplay for Sister Act 3 and on the television series The Three Body Problem. 

While she appears to be at ease both in a big Hollywood writer’s room and at her solitary desk writing plays, she admits that although she is grateful for all of her work, and that writing pays the bills; theater is her first love and passion.


Silicon Valley TheatreWorks, Mountain View

March 6–13



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