Where’s the Silver Queen?Play may unravel mystery | AspenTimes.com

Where’s the Silver Queen?Play may unravel mystery

Aspen's Silver Queen statue, and the story behind its disappearance in 1893, is at the heart of Jay Frank's one-man show, "The Shining Queen," at Paepcke Auditorium Saturday.

One of Aspen’s oldest mysteries may be solved Saturday night on the Paepcke Auditorium stage.At the very least, the audience for the debut performance of “The Shining Queen” will be treated to an intriguing theory about the disappearance of Aspen’s Silver Queen statue more than a century ago.Playwright Jay Frank, best known as a cast member on MTV’s “The Real World – London,” is a regular summer visitor to Aspen and, it seems, something of a history buff.At age 18, his one-man show, “Bedroom,” won national acclaim. Frank was named the nation’s top young playwright by the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts.

This time, he tackles an enduring Aspen mystery, offering the audience a history lesson combined with “Da Vinci Code”-style symbology and – Frank promises – a credible theory regarding the fate of the long-lost Silver Queen.Frank plays all eight roles in the one-man production, which he began writing last year after uncovering the tale of the Silver Queen while he worked on a historical treasure hunt to entertain his girlfriend and her sister.The 18-foot-tall statue was constructed by the city of Aspen for display at the World’s Columbian Exposition, better known as the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, but was never returned. (The Aspen Times offered a $5,000 reward for its return a century later, to no avail.)”The question is, what happened to her, coming back from the Chicago World’s Fair,” Frank muses.The play – fiction interwoven with factual historical accounts – follows a 20-year-old student of music composition who wins an internship with the fictional Aspen Conservatory. On a plane to Aspen, a fellow passenger insists on sharing the details of the best seller she’s reading, Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” (Frank himself was caught up in Brown’s twisting tale of conspiracy last summer.)

Upon arriving in Aspen, Frank’s music student finds incredible parallels to the book, drawing him into a story of murder, kidnapping and rape.As Frank puts it in his promo: “The famous and infamous of Aspen and the nation’s past find prominence again as he uncovers a secret long protected by men at the highest levels of government: the Silver Queen was a real person. ‘The Shining Queen’ details the Silver Queen’s fate and presents a new vision of Aspen’s founding.”The statue, Frank contends, represents a famous historical figure – Josephine Meeker, daughter of Nathan Meeker of the White River Indian Agency, who was killed by the Utes in an event known as the Meeker Massacre. Josephine was kidnapped shortly after her father’s death and was rescued, unharmed, 24 days later.”Nobody has ever said this before – that the Silver Queen statue is Josephine Meeker,” Frank said.

The clues, he contends, are all over the statue, which actually turned up for a time at the Mineral Palace in Pueblo, minus its silver, according to Frank. He has a theory about what happened to the once-precious metal.”The Shining Queen” begins at 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students; they are available in advance at the Wheeler Box Office. The play is produced by Tina Chen of TCJ Productions. Frank is planning just one performance, but said he hopes to stage the play again next summer.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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