UA production ‘Equivocation’ links Shakespeare and the Gunpowder Plot

While he has only been in town for a few months, David Trump is quickly adjusting in hisfirst semester at the University of Alabama, studying in the master of fine arts actingprogram.

Trump is originally from Louisville, Ky.; he attended Northern Kentucky University forhis bachelor’s. While getting used to his new town, Trump has auditioned, been selectedfor and begun rehearsing the role of William Shakespeare — also known as Shag andShagspeare, plays on the writer’s infamous varied spellings — in Bill Cain’s play,
“Equivocation,” which opens Monday in the Allen Bales Theatre.

Cain’s work premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2009. This is the UA debut,and probably the state debut, for “Equivocation,” which asks what would have happenedif the English government had commissioned Shakespeare to craft a play based on the Gunpowder Plot, in which 13 Catholics were accused of attempting — and failing — to
blow up Parliament and King James I.

As directed by MFA student David Bolus, “Equivocation” features an intimate cast, with about 10 actors, and five as understudies.

” ‘Equivocation’ is about seeking and finding what is true — if there is even a universal truth — in each of the characters’ lives and in the world,” Trump said. “Shakespeare is constantly seeking what is true in his own life because he is estranged from his family,
and tied down to the theater life.”

Toward the end of the play, Shakespeare realizes love and family are true and constant,Trump said. There are several other themes to the show, he said, including social commentary on the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the affects of the war in Iraq, a love for theater and finding truth in life and pursuing it.

Although playing the most renowned writer of the English language is quite an undertaking, Trump said he hopes to tell the story well. Not only does he want people towalk away from the show knowing more about Shakespeare, but also for people to know more about who they are and what they strive to be.

Kelly Kohlman, 21, a senior at UA majoring in musical theater and business management,is playing Sir Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, who in real life helped uncover the conspiracy to kill the king but in “Equivocation” may have other purposes. It is Cecil in “Equivocation” who commissions Shakespeare to write the play. Cecil’s truth in the show is “whatever is best for the preservation of the country,”
Kohlman said. Kohlman, also president of Alpha Psi Omega, the theater honorary, has performed in UAproductions of “42nd Street,” “Merrily We Roll Along,” “All Shook Up” and “The Birthday Party,” but considers “Equivocation” her most challenging work yet.

She’s playing a male because casting was gender-neutral. “In my director’s — David Bolus — words, ‘It doesn’t matter,’ ” Kohlman said. “All of us in the show are playing people. Several women play men in the show, and I don’t think itmesses up the characters or the history. I think it adds another level of understanding of the characters, and adds more variety to the stage.”

Actual works by Shakespeare, especially “Macbeth” and “King Lear,” interweave throughout “Equivocation” as the playwright attempts to please his benefactor, while not offering potentially lethal offense. The dilemma breaks down into three options: Speak truth to power, and perhaps die for it; take the money, and lie; or a third choice:
equivocation, walking the lines between what becomes history, and what is the full truth.

Variety wrote that Cain’s play is “one of the most bracingly intelligent, sizzlingly theatrical American plays in a decade.”

UA production ‘Equivocation’ links Shakespeare and the Gunpowder Plot |