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NEWS

PRESS RELEASE: UGA Theatre presents Peter Shaffer’s modern classic “Equus”

ATHENS, GA. – UGA Theatre presents “Equus” by Peter Shaffer. Performances are November 2–3 and 7–9 at 8 p.m. and November 4 and 11 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $16 and $12 for UGA students. Tickets can be purchased online at www.ugatheatre.com/equus, via phone at 706-542-4400, or in person at the Performing Arts Center or Tate Center box offices.

Peter Shaffer’s “Equus” tells the story of Alan Strang, a 17-year-old boy charged with violently blinding six horses in a seemingly unprovoked fit of rage. Alan is submitted to an extended psychiatric evaluation at the hands of Dr. Martin Dysart in an effort to discover why a well-adjusted young man would commit such an abhorrent act of violence. Through their sessions, Dysart grows increasingly envious of the passion that drove Alan to his horrific act, and develops deep misgivings about the cost of his soul-deadening “cure.”  

“Equus” was based in part on a news story encountered by Shaffer that involved a boy blinding multiple horses near Suffolk in England. Shaffer used this real-life incident as a springboard to explore what director Ray Paolino refers to as the “ritualistic roots” of theatre. “Equus” holds a unique sentimentality for Paolino, who saw the play on Broadway in 1974 as a young man. “Shaffer created a world of limitless possibilities on stage. ‘Equus’ poses ancient, yet essential, questions that we all face: What is our purpose? Can we ever know another person? Is there a god,” said Paolino. “I believe these questions are the reason this show has remained relevant for so long.”  

With an ethereal narrative that juxtaposes reality with memory, the action of the play is somewhat dream-like – a quality that informs UGA Theatre’s production in all of its various design elements. For costume designer Kelsey Albright, the show’s journey through the minds of its characters lends itself to an expressionistic design. “‘Equus’ pulls the audience out of the real world and into Dysart’s troubled mind and reflects his interpretation of events – which are more like heightened memories than reliable accounts of the play’s narrative,” said Albright.

Sound designer John Gibbs sees the dichotomy of repression and passion as equally vital to “Equus,” especially with respect to the role religion plays in the show. “Whereas codified religions (in this case, the traditional Church of England) represent a repressive presence, a more primitive spirituality, filled with pain and suffering but alive to intense feeling, is trying to burst through,” said Gibbs. MFA candidate Liz Gubler’s scenic design echoes this sentiment by using “daunting sleek gothic arches and a stone altar to evoke a feeling of dreadful, God-like power.”

UGA Theatre’s production of “Equus” is a featured event of the University of Georgia’s “Spotlight on the Arts,” a week-long festival in November highlighting the work of students and faculty involved in the arts at UGA. “’Equus’ is the perfect vehicle to showcase the department of theatre and film studies during the Spotlight event,” said department head David Saltz. “It’s a towering work of unbridled theatricality that is psychologically astute, philosophically penetrating, and physically demanding. It’s one of the most ambitious plays of the modern era — and I think our production lives up to that ambition in direction, acting, and design without question.”

Cast:

Dr. Martin Dysart – John Galas
Alan Strang – Zachary Pareizs
Frank Strang – Shanon Weaver*
Dora Strang – Robyn Accetta*
Hesther Salomon – Daja M. Rice
Jill Mason – Brie Wolfe
Harry Dalton – Brewer Kunnemann
Horseman/Nugget – Sean Birkett
A Nurse – Olivia Bell
Horses – Olivia Babuka Black, Brett M. Green, Savanah Hudson, Richy Wagner, Elijah Harris
Understudies – Christian Madura, Ciara Pysczynski

* Appears courtesy of Actors Equity Association