The Undergraduate Theatre Association at UW-Madison is bringing 17th century London to the Hemsley Theatre this Nov. 14-23.
Students from the university are putting on Bill Cain’s “Equivocation,” which centers around a request for William Shagspeare (yes, that’s spelled correctly) to write about a plan to assassinate King James I in what is known as the “Gunpowder plot.” The text features a myriad of dramatic elements coupled with subtle humor that makes this piece worth seeing more than once.
The cast features both UW Students and community members and is directed by NYU Tisch graduate Ari Pollack. He says it’s been a pleasure to physicalize this story, and that the play’s themes of seeking truth in our lives is a message we can all relate to.
“I've lived in and around Madison for my whole life, and I consistently see people who know that times are difficult, but are too afraid, or too comfortable, to speak up and do something. My hope for this play is that by holding the mirror up, as Shag would say, we can remind our audience that being aware of a problem is not the same as fixing it,” Pollack said.
Pollack believes that the writing style has allowed the cast to explore exciting new avenues of performance, like getting to play multiple characters at once (sometimes in the same scene). He says it’s been “a really fun challenge for me as a director, and for my cast as actors.”
Paul Urbanski plays Shag, the representation of William Shakespeare in the play. He says that this production brings strength to student theatre. He noted that a play like “Equivocation” needs to be performed now in America’s current political landscape, as the ideas of alternative truths and fake news cloud media.
“A play that explores not only the importance of truth but also how to always adhere to the truth is something that I think everyone could stand to hear,” Urbanski said.
These political resonances are echoed by Annalyse Lapajenko, the actor portraying Father Henry Garnet and Richard Burbage. They say that the contemporary landscape of this production is relevant in more ways than one. The play throws gender out in order to bring power to women and non-binary individuals in the place of the typical white, cis-male narrative.
“I think that's something that all of us can relate to, politically, right now. Because it has such a contemporary feel to it, it was important to us that we had a contemporary group of people telling the story,” Lapajenko said.
The show features brilliant elements of sound design by Isabel Coff that bring scenes with minimal set dressing or props to life. The addition of Foley sound creation in the piece brings a quirky, artistic element to fighting scenes that draws the audience in new and enticing ways. Crowds will be entranced by this performance and its artistic value, political relevance and incredibly talented students.
“Equivocation” plays in the Hemsley Theatre on UW’s Campus Nov. 14-23.Tickets are free and seating is limited.