Here at Third Rail we’ve enjoyed the services of two magnificent dramaturgs, Brian Myers and Ellen Walkley, for several years. They’ve been with us since 2011 when they took over managing our NT Live program, and took over dramaturgical duties from Larkin Sackett (who ran off to a little school called Columbia University to pursue her MFA) during Sweet and Sad. They both hold PhDs from UC Berkeley, and we are blessed to have their incredible brains in the rehearsal room. Brian and Ellen tend to tag-team our seasons, each taking the lead on alternating shows, so we asked Ellen to write up a bit of information about our upcoming show Or, by Liz Duffy Adams:
Or, looks ripe for the easiest of a dramaturg’s job—researching historical references—but it is less immediately yielding to the more difficult task of finding the heart of the script. Charles II was indeed fond of exclaiming “Odd’s fish,” for example, but his visit to Aphra in debtor’s prison is pure fiction. Aphra spied, London burned, the plague raged, Charles returned and theaters reopened, but this play is not dependent on a precise chronology.
Adams directs us in many ways to the play’s essence. In her stage directions, she states that the play is set during the Restoration “but plays off the echoes between the late 1660s, the late 1960s and the present.” These echoes are evident in the diction, which is often anachronistic; “kinky,” “It girl,” “quickie,” and “nostalgia queen” are not words likely heard in Charles’ court. Echoes between the 1660s and 1960s are also found in the background of the play, unfolding as it does in the midst of an unpopular war and the loosening of sexual morés. The pastoral lyricism of Aphra’s speech about Arcadia and Nell’s restatement of that speech in contemporary terms matches the joys of Arcadia with the expectations of the Age of Aquarius.
But Adams suggests that this combination of destruction and hope can be found in any age. Her primary interest is in a “subculture that can look incredibly naïve, but is exactly what gives us hope.” The advice that Nell gives Aphra could work as well in the present as it does in the 1660s:
Nell: We are lucking to be alive right now. This is our utopia, and it’s never going to end.
Aphra: How lovely it would be to believe that.
Nell: O, just choose to believe it, that’s what I do.