Get ready for a brain teaser.
Featuring questions about religious beliefs and practices, sexual experiences, passion versus reason, parental influence, and more – just in the first act – Peter Shaffer’s “Equus” hits FAU’s Studio One Theater this Friday, Feb. 15.
The contemporary drama, which is directed by Visiting Assistant Professor of Voice and Speech Kathryn L. Johnston, tells the story of a psychiatrist who attempts to treat a young man who has been convicted of blinding six horses.
“Roles like this are exactly why I've come here,” said Connor Hammond, a first year in FAU’s MFA Acting Program. Hammond is playing the lead role of Alan Strang, who has a religious fixation toward horses. “I visited campus as a prospective graduate student and I met Kathwelryn. We were sitting next to each other exchanging small talk.”
Soon Johnston told him about “Equus.”
“Fast forward almost exactly one year later and I'm walking out a rehearsal for ‘Equus’ and Kathryn stops me, gives me the same look, and says ‘you're doing a wonderful job with Alan.’”
Despite being written 40 years ago, Johnston and her cast view “Equus” as timely.
“Take a look at the recent elections,” explained Johnston.
“I was struck with how unwavering many of us seemed to be regarding what was right and how unwilling [many were] to take a moment to listen to the other side,” she said. “”Equus”takes an issue that we think should be black and white and throws in those shades of grey. It’s my hope that a lot of conversations arise from this production.”
It shouldn’t be hard for conversations to arise upon seeing “Equus,” especially with a fully nude scene being thrown into the mix.
“One of the most intimidating parts of approaching the role of Alan [is] the nudity,” said Hammond. “It is full frontal and it scared me for a while.” Hammond credited the play’s stage manager and assistant stage manager for making the environment feel safe as he bared it all. “It is a matter of getting to the point where the image of the world is so real and my work with my character is so strong that it no longer feels like Connor taking his clothes off – it is Alan."
Other challenges actor Scott Wells and the rest of the cast had to face for the show were learning to speak with accents. All of the actors in “Equus” with speaking roles had to learn either British R.P. (“Queen’s English”) or Hampshire British. British R.P. is Standard English spoken by well-educated people in Britain. Along with that, actors playing horses had to study movement and deal with wearing large horse heads, and every actor in the show has to remain on stage during the entire performance.
“[It] is a lot to ask of them,” Johnston said. “[The actors] have to be able to remain still while they’re not part of the action. I’m very pleased at how well they’ve managed it — none of them are willing to settle for ‘good enough.’”
“There’s been a great deal of excitement about the project since it was announced last year and I think that excitement has continued through the whole process,” Johnston said. “I don’t believe I’ve ever anticipated an Opening Night as much as I have this one.”
If you go
When: Fridays through Sunday, Feb. 15 to Feb. 24
Florida Atlantic University
777 Glades Road
Boca Raton, FL 33431
General admission: $20
Students, faculty, staff, alumni and children under age 12: $12.
For More Information: www.fauevents.com or 1-800-564-9539.
*This play contains nudity and adult subject matter. Parental discretion advised. Children under 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.