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Equivocation, truth, and language

marian.bechtel's picture

Abby and I are both in a show this semester called "Equivocation," and throughout this course we keep dancing around topics that seem central to this play, such as truth, language, double meanings, and genre. So the two of us have talked about doing our next project together on something with this play, because it ties into all the things we've talked about so well. We're not really sure yet what we want to do, other than we know we want to try and use multimedia as oppose to paper writing for the project, so I'm just going to use this post to throw around some ideas. One thing that we could definitely play with is the fluidity between characters in the play - it was written for 6 actors, each of whom plays several different characters that switch seamlessly back and forth instantaneously on the stage, often without clear boundaries between the characters. For example, my part in this play involves playing both an actor in Shakespeare's troupe (Sharpe) and a conspirator in the Gundpowder Plot (Tom Wintour), and in many scenes I switch back and forth between the two from line to line, revealing many connections between the characters. We agreed that kind of fluidity between characters seems very ecological. We could also definitely do something with genres, since there is a lot of discussion about what constitutes Shakespeare's different genres within the play, and the play itself is a comedy/tragedy about Shakespeare. Also theater itself is a genre for communication. Of course we can also talk about the act of "equivocation" itself - defined in the script as "telling the truth in difficult times" and answering the question beneath the words. (More spitballing here...) I'm also thinking about now how the script of "Equivocation" might be wild, or how Shakespeare's writing might be wild (still struggling with what it means for writing to be truly wild). Perhaps there's something we can do there? We really like the idea of using film to do something, maybe with a dialogue or acting, or maybe taking the script we have and somehow translating it to something more nature-focused and ecological that we perform outdoors on film? Or maybe the two of us performing one or more of the scenes as ALL the different characters (not the ones we are in the actual show) and then talking about how that portrayal of individuals is ecological? Ahh I feel like there are so many ways we could take this and I can't think of a perfect idea yet...Abby any more thoughts since we talked/after reading this??


Abby Sarah's picture

...brainstorming off what you’ve started (it’s getting a little wild in here):

I think there’s something inherently leveling (looking at Paula Gunn Allen) about the actors playing multiple parts…it seems like an ecological way to appeal to an audience who expects there to be heroes and villains, leads and ensembles, but still subvert it at the same time (We are all royal and we are all fools.).

Still rolling off what you said, genre and what constitutes a ‘playable’ narrative is batted back and forth a lot in the play (The whole “There is no climax. It just ENDS.” debate). The play definitely grapples with representing endless circles of lies and truth and equivocating in a finite space, and the fact the there will always be something outside any narrative that is told—it seems unavoidable that someone’s story will be left out, although it is often purposefully excluded by the residing power. I’m thinking about Judith’s line “How can there be anything true about a play? A play has a beginning and an end. There’s two lies right there.” At the same time, it is a play itself? So clearly it must think that there is something to be said in this finite space nonetheless (and there are some beautiful lines one *what* exactly theater and actors are/can be).

I am also interested in the ways in which the play is still bounded though, either by historical setting or convention: every character onstage except for one is male, and Sharpe (young white dude) is held up as the vessel through which all audiences may see themselves. That said, our production is played by a mostly female cross-dressing cast, many of whom are queer, so if we wanted to do something focused on our production, I am particularly interested in the reclaiming (?) of Shakespeare or Shakespeare related texts by those for whom only very specific pieces are usually accessible (ie traditionally female characters or heterosexual relationships). But that may be an entirely different and ambitious project.

I think that what we may want to grabble with first is the format this project/web event may take…I liked what you said about the possibility of taking it outside. It reminds me of one of the notes about the set in the script: “I would like to point out that the Globe is not a modern theater. There is nothing black box-y about it. It is an open air place of light. In this world, everything seems well. You have to look behind the scenes to find the darkness.” Perhaps outside would be the perfect space to set it. We were tossing around ideas for multimedia, and I’m still grappling with ways to make our multimedia whatever serve the function as a paper (ie illuminates/highlights something about the text) but still be ecological.  We could play around with cinematic genre, as opposed to literary genre, or create something that uses both text and film—maybe one scene with us playing multiple characters but presented one multiple ways, some of which are textual and some cinematic?

Also I realize that it may not be the most ecological to create something around a text which at present I think only Marian and I have access to, so if anyone else is interested in something like this, I'm sure we could think about ways to open this up....