Production of ‘Equivocation’ blends history, fiction


Lauren Duquette/ The Daily Northwestern

Cast members rehearse for an upcoming production of “Equivocation.” The show, featured as part of the MFA Lab series, combines historical suspense with metadrama.

Rachel Holtzman, Reporter


The upcoming production of “Equivocation” will combine historical suspense with metadrama — a genre which showcases a play within a play.

The show, directed by second year directing graduate student Michael Cotey, premieres Friday in the Wallis Theater as part of the 2016 MFA Lab Series. The series partners theatre directors from Northwestern’s MFA program with designers in the MFA program in stage design.

“The play is sort of like a historical thriller,” Cotey said. “There’s a ton of inside humor that Shakespeare nerds will absolutely love. It has plays within plays within plays. The structure of the play really blurs the line between what is reality and what is fiction.”

The play, set in 17th century England, focuses on William Shagspeare, a fictional William Shakespeare. He is coerced into writing a propaganda play about the historical Gunpowder Plot of 1605, which threatened to assassinate the king and take out major powers in England at the time.

As Shagspeare and his acting troupe try to put the play together, they realize the government’s version of the story can’t be true, said Communication junior Dan Stompor, who plays Shagspeare. As they come to this realization, they must decide what to include in the plot of the play.

“It’s a play that starts at a high velocity and never really slows down,” Stompor said.

“Equivocation” draws on tragic elements from “King Lear” and “Macbeth,” two of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, in seriousness and scope, said cast member Sam Douglas, a Communication senior. There are references to characters from the plays in the show, he said.

He added the setting of the show moves back and forth between multiple places, from the Globe Theatre to the Tower of London, as the play within the show starts to come together.

Four out of the six actors in the show function as multiple characters — both plotters with stakes in the alternate history and players in an acting troupe.

Douglas said finding ways in which all the characters he plays are connected has been his favorite acting challenge during the process, and he hopes audience members come away with a sense of compassion for the characters.

“It’s been funny and so much fun to play everyone from the highest status men in the country to a man … in this dungeon, being tortured, but who maintains the belief that he is in the right, even if what he did was wrong,” Douglas said.

In addition to the Shakespearean elements, Cotey said the script explores the beliefs and passions of people who believe strongly in their own versions of the truth — what they believe in and what they find worth fighting for.

“(The playwright) was inspired to write something true, but this play isn’t factually accurate,” Cotey added. “What does truth mean, when we’re not just defining it as a litany of facts?”

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