Charles Busch's Cleopatra

by  Charles Busch

Full Length Play, Comedy  /  5m, 3f

The turbulent life of Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile, is told, viewed through the outrageous comic lens of master parodist Charles Busch.

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Charles Busch's Cleopatra

by  Charles Busch

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  • Cast Size

    Cast Size

    5m, 3f
  • Duration


    90 minutes
  • SubGenre


    Adaptations (Stage & Screen), Period, Parody / Spoof
  • Audience

    Target Audience

    • Adult

Additional Info

The turbulent life of Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile, is told, viewed through the outrageous comic lens of master parodist Charles Busch.  Evoking both 1930’s Hollywood epics and the grand 19th Century romantic theatre of Sarah Bernhardt, this version of the life of the ill-fated Egyptian Queen takes her from her teenage seduction of the Roman leader Julius Caesar through her volatile tragic romance with Mark Antony and to her ultimate death.  Charles Busch’s Cleopatra has echoes of the many great stars that have played her on stage and on film, such as Claudette Colbert, Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh and several who thankfully didn’t, including Jean Harlow, Barbara Stanwyck and Mae West.  
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"...always smartly campy, often over-the-top, occasionally very raunchy, and always hilarious — with an infinite all-you-can-eat buffet of priceless lines and situations running throughout." - Huffington Post, Read More


Performing Groups

  • College Theatre / Student
  • Community Theatre
  • Dinner Theatre
  • Professional Theatre
  • Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups


  • Caution Strong Language Strong Language
  • Caution Mild Adult Mild Adult Themes

License details

  • Minimum Fee: £55 per performance plus VAT when applicable.

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  • Time Period: Greek; Roman & Biblical
  • Duration: 90 minutes
  • Setting: Several locations in Rome and Egypt.
  • Additional Features: No intermission
  • Features / Contains: Period Costumes


5m, 3f
CLEOPATRA - Legendary Queen of the Nile. Beautiful, tough and alluring.
CAESAR - Magnetic Roman leader in his late middle age.
MARC ANTONY - Handsome, gruff warrior with a fatal weakness for women
OCTAVIAN - Young ruthlessly ambitious heir to Caesar
APOLLODRUS - Musclebound devoted slave to Cleopatra
SOOTHSAYER - Nervous, highly emotional wandering prophet
CHARMION - Beautiful young handmaiden to Cleopatra and very much in charge
IRAS - Lovely handmaiden to Cleopatra, with a bawdy sense of humor
CALPURNIA - Caesars imposing and imperious wife
OCTAVIA - Octavian’s gentle and delicately beautiful twin sister
LEPIDUS - A worldly and dignified elder Roman Senator
ACHMED - A violent, unscrupulous slave trader

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Cast Attributes

  • Non-Traditional casting
  • Cross gender casting
  • Reduced casting (Doubling Possible)
  • Drag performance
  • Expandable casting

Casting Notes

The original production had a cast of eight actors, with several roles doubled.  The play can also be performed with a larger cast each playing only one role. Several roles in the original production used cross gender casting. This is not a necessity. What is important is that each role be played with total conviction. The humor must not derive from the role being played by someone of the opposite sex, but from the lines and situation being comic.  

Suggested doubling and gender crossed casting:
Octavian/ Octavia - played by a woman
Caesar/ Calpurnia/ Lepidus - played by a man
Apollodorus/ Achmed - played by a man
Cleopatra - played by a man


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Charles Busch

Charles Busch is the author and star of such plays as The Divine Sister, The Lady in Question, Red Scare on Sunset and Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, which ran five years and is one of the longest running plays in Off-Broadway history. His play The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife ran for 777 performances on Broadway and won M ...

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Cleopatra premiered at Theater for a New City in New York City in March 2016 under the direction of Carl Andress.

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