The New Countess
A drama series with comedic touches featuring positive portrayals of LGBT people, "The New Countess" imagines what would happen if the characters of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night continued their lives together while facing the challenges and threats facing a minor countess in a small kingdom in 16th century Italy. The episodes explore issues that were real 500 years ago and also today, including war, slavery, sex-trafficking, religious bigotry, gender discrimination, homophobia, intersexed people, immigration and refugees. This series features the first positive portrayal of a female protagonist in a historical drama set before 1800, and the first positive portrayal of an intersexed person in a historical drama, ever.
Hannah MiyamotoWriterTwelve Nights with Viola & Olivia, a theatrical play.
Project Type:Screenplay, Television Script, Treatment
Number of Pages:45
Country of Origin:United States
The most important event in Hannah's life was before her birth: Her mother was prescribed one of the most dangerous drugs ever given to pregnant women, DES. Consequently, although she was born a boy, she developed like a girl.
Her experience of being a woman born as a boy inspired her life-long interest in Shakespeare’s plays, especially "Twelfth Night." She wrote her first produced play, "Twelve Nights with Viola & Olivia," as an independent study in theater, while earning her M.S. in Women's Studies. "Twelve Nights" became the foundation of her 2005 thesis, in which she examined gender and female sexuality in Shakespeare's plays, from "Taming of the Shrew" to "Two Noble Kinsmen."
In 2017, she produced and directed "Twelve Nights" for the San Diego International Fringe Festival. In 2020, she founded Pacifico Studios to produce films that influence people to make the world better.
The United States, and other liberal democracies, are in a political and social crisis. Seeking power through division, extremists are trying to inspire enmity against a litany of groups including assertive women, transgender children and seniors, racial and ethnic minorities, recent immigrants, refugees and asylees, Jews, Moslems and critical thinkers.
Media creators, on the other hand, are fortunate that persons with higher incomes, more education, and those born after 1982 (“Millennials”) are some of the most resistant groups to such negative messaging. These groups are also attractive to advertisers and can become devoted to programming they enjoy.
Then there are the White Supremacists; some of the most pseudo-authoritative of whom try to disguise their racist bigotry as an exaltation of “Western Civilization”; a “civilization” that was even more superior before – they claim – it was degraded by base additions from feminists, non-Europeans, socialists, Marxists, Jews, GLBT people, etc. Most “Western Civ” champions will cite the Italian Renaissance as the pinnacle of European culture before everything went downhill.
“The New Countess” is a feminist, LGBT-oriented, anti-racist light drama set during the Italian Renaissance employing characters from the gender-transgressive comedy “Twelfth Night” by Shakespeare. Outwardly, the ruler of the town is young Count Orsino, who is about to marry virginal Viola. However, the real leader is Countess Olivia, a young bisexual woman adept at riding horses, handling swords and guns, and managing the estate of her family, – an Early Modern European “Girlboss” – with a enduring and sexual relationship with her bed-chambermaid Maria. Olivia has just married a young nobleman, Sebastiano, after falling in love with his twin sister Viola. Sebastiano is the love-object of Antonio, who finds him irresistible. Then there is Adriano, a intersexed feminine young man that Olivia rescued from an abusive adolescence.
As Viola and Sebastiano are identical twins, the same woman will play both characters, with contrasting portrayals of brother and sister, while another woman will play Adriano. Therefore, every kiss between Olivia and Sebastiano will be between two women, as will any love between Adriano and any girlfriend “he” gets involved with. Then there is the gay relationship between Sebastiano and Antonio, plus anything else that develops.
Meanwhile, Countess Olivia will move deftly, leading the men of Count Orsino while preserving the illusion that he is a masterful ruler of a well-managed and strongly defended realm.
Under Olivia’s guidance, Orsino’s county is prospering because all races, nationalities and religions are welcomed, including Greek Orthodox and Judaism. Viola and Sebastiano are Greeks whose families sent them to Italy to avoid being taken as child-slaves by the ever-expanding Ottoman Empire. Although diversity is good for business and helps the county advance, some local people and some powerful figures around the Pope oppose such openness and threaten to drive people like Olivia from power.
This is the real Italy of the Renaissance in microcosm; a town full of hard-working, well-fed and easy-going Italians living by their motto: “Live while you Live” (Dum vivimus vivamus); growing ever-more prosperous by welcoming refugees fleeing persecution and absorbing knowledge from diverse cultures, especially Greek, Arab, and Jewish. Yet these people are also frequently challenged by issues that we still face today, including war, religious intolerance, gender-based oppression, homophobia, xenophobia, distrust of science, contagious disease, slavery, and sex-trafficking. The world of “The New Countess” is a fascinating one you will want to immerse yourself in, and you will hate to ever leave it.
As an intersexed person with a deep understanding of Early Modern European social history, I have the knowledge and creativity needed to make stories set 500 years ago contemporary and inspiring by showing that 16th Italy was every bit as diverse and interesting as our time. “The New Countess” will interest Shakespeare lovers, but with its open portrayals of same-sex relationships, and truly unique characters like Adriano – one of the first-ever positive complex media portrayals of an intersexed person – it will grab the attention of young viewers who will find “him” an engaging example of a non-binary character with both clearly feminine and masculine characteristics.