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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Scott Kull: The new Director of Athletics
Abigail Taylor, Contributing Writer • April 16, 2024

Equus offers a celebration of difference—and an indictment of the way we worship

“Extremity is the point!” exclaims main character Dr. Dysart, midway through the first act. This serves as not just an assessment of the play’s depicted crime, but it gives the audience an idea of what they’re in for while watching Equus.

Between its depictions of worship and belief, its sexual themes throughout and a nude sequence, no one would ever accuse Equus of being “tame” or “normal.”  

The show has always been met with controversy, most notably in 2007 when a young Daniel Radlciffe played Alan Strang, despite being only seventeen years old.

Peter Skidmore, the director of the 2007 production and later revivals spoke on the play in 2015.

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“It was shockingly controversial when first performed in 1973, due in no small part to its graphic descriptions of a confused sexuality and its paganistic rejection of modern society, not to mention its famously disturbing and violent finale,” Skidmore said.

Equus’s history is often entwined with the extreme, which serves to deliver its troubling messages. 

This isn’t the first time the show has been put on at Wofford College, either. The theater department  had two earlier productions, one in 1977 and one in 1995. 

A 1990 article from the Spartanburg Herald Journal remarks that Wofford was known for more “experimental” plays, and even obtained the rights to Equus in 1977 just after the show ended its Broadway run. 

But the current production, Equus 2023, sets itself apart from past iterations. Directed by Hailie Gold ‘23, and starring Mary Michael O’hara ‘25, Alex Malvern ‘23 and Emmy Monteverde ‘24, the show has a variety of technical elements at play that set it apart. 

Ominous punk and classical music, fluorescent light strips that suggest an almost science-fiction-like atmosphere and a modern minimalist set with ramps to bring the “horses” to their full height are some of the unique elements brought to the production.

One of the main differences was that O’hara’s Dr. Dysart was played as a woman instead of a man. O’hara had thoughts to share on this transformation. 

“We had to reinvent character without changing any words,” O’hara said. Both the cast and director worked closely to make the show seem as if it were meant this way. Considering the sexual themes in the show, as well as an underlying Freudian understanding, this worked to enhance the show. 

 “What stood out the most was that a lot of lines that were meant to be jokes weren’t jokes anymore. Most of the work was just in taking the words and changing the way they were received (by other characters),” O’hara said.

Gold also had many thoughts to share. 

“I never felt panicked or thrown out to sea on this show,” Gold said,. “bBut sometimes I turn around and look at what’s behind me and I say, wow, this show has everything in it, and it has a tradition here at Wofford, and it has a tradition on Broadway.”

Part of the irony is the idea of “tradition” when it comes to a show like Equus, a play very intent on questioning what tradition means. The show does this through its exploration of Alan’s mental and emotional states. 

“When Alan believes, it’s incredible,” Gold said. “His belief has to be so magnetizing that it convinces someone else to challenge their own beliefs. And if we can invite an audience in and say, look at your own belief:  what are they? That’s the question we all need to be asked.”

Gold reflected that the show is “questioning.” If it is successful, it will leave the audience with further questions of their own. 

“Wofford theater’s motto is ‘Work. Play. Change,’” Gold said. “And that’s not just for the actors and the designers and the crew and the director and choreographers, it is also for the audience.”

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