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Local actress, playwright prepares for premiere of her musical, ‘Zenobia’

BOLINGBROOK – Bolingbrook resident Lorrisa Julianus says story telling is in her blood.

The 27-year-old first stepped foot on a theater stage when she was a toddler, has been expounding her craft ever since, and now is a published playwright, a seasoned director and producer, an accredited actress and model and an accomplished painter.

“My mother made sure I was on a theater and local church stage at a very young age,” Julianus said. “First, I fell in love with theater and performance arts a few years later when I saw a play that my uncle – a professional union stage actor – starred in. It was love at first sight, and I have been writing and performing theater ever since.”

The youngest graduate ever of Chicago’s Columbia College – where as a 17-year-old she received her bachelor’s degree in film and theater – Julianus published her first play, “The Praetorium,” in 2002. To date, “The Praetorium” has played in theaters around the world, reaching as far as Moscow, Russia.

While the Homer Township native also was a motion capture actor for two Mortal Kombat video games and appeared in “The Bold and the Beautiful” and several short films, Julianus says her passion is theater.

She settled in Bolingbrook after meeting her husband, Craig Engel, during a Theatre-on-the-Hill production in 2005. Since then, she has been an active member of the local production troupe, starring in and directing multiple performances such as “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

For the past three years, she has focused her efforts on “Zenobia,” a Theater-on-the-Hill musical that will debut at Bolingbrook’s Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m. Aug. 15.

A multimedia musical depicting the true story of the warrior Queen of Palmyra, Julianus wrote, directed and is starring as the title character. Joliet resident Angela Salvaggione composed the musical score.

For Julianus, “Zenobia” has been more than a decade in the making.

“I first read about Zenobia’s story when I was a 14-year-old,” Julianus said. “I loved that it was so different from what we see in the stories of other historical queens, warriors and heroins, which usually have tragic endings. I think Zenobia’s story gives us hope that whenever we think that all hope is lost and life is over, there can still be a new beginning; we can still find love.”

Excited by the opportunity to debut the multi-layered play to the world, Julianus’ 38-member cast – which ranges from 12-year-olds to those in their 60s – is gearing up for its Aug. 15 curtain call.

Bolingbrook resident Scott Bovaird will play leading male Danathus, the King of Palmyra. Bovaird, 41, said it is challenging and exciting to be a part of a musical that has never before been performed.

“There is no Zenobia road map; you cannot watch a movie to gain insight,” Bovaird said. “So, we are all creating characters and bringing all these roles to life. We have to dig deep, work hard to bring it to life and make it a memorable performance.”

A Theatre-on-the-Hill veteran since 2009, Bovaird will act alongside his entire family, as his wife and three children are also cast as Zenobia characters. For Bovaird, Theatre-on-the-Hill is not only family time, but a space where he can interact with friends and perform for the entire Bolingbrook community.

“There aren’t many things like this that we could all do as a family,” Bovaird said. “It is really fun to see my children up there, see the friends they have made, how they have grown over the years into bigger roles.

“Theater on the hill is a great opportunity. Folks can come and experiment in theater and there is a sport for everybody. It’s a great, relaxed venue and a lot of fun for everyone involved.”

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