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Equus - Full Length Play, Drama


Peter Shaffer

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Full Length Play, Drama

5m, 4f

ISBN: 9780573608728

"The closest I have seen a contemporary play come to reanimating the spirit of mystery that makes the stage a place of breathless discovery rather than a classroom for rational demonstration. Mr. Shaffer may have been trying for just such iconography…

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: Acting Edition
Downloadable Sound Effects - Equus
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Minimum Fee: $100 per performance


Full Length Play


Dr. Martin Dysart, a psychiatrist, is confronted with Alan Strang, a boy who has blinded six horses in a violent fit of passion. This very passion is as foreign to Dysart as the act itself. To the boy's parents it is a hideous mystery; Alan has always adored horses. To Dysart it is a psychological puzzle that leads both doctor and patient to a complex and disturbingly dramatic confrontation. This international success reached new acclaim in London and on Broadway when revived in 2008.
"The closest I have seen a contemporary play come to reanimating the spirit of mystery that makes the stage a place of breathless discovery rather than a classroom for rational demonstration. Mr. Shaffer may have been trying for just such iconography a portrait of the drives that lead men to crucify themselves there. Here I think he's found it." - The New York Times


5m, 4f


6 actors to play horses

Peter Shaffer

Peter Shaffer

Sir Peter Shaffer, in full Sir Peter Levin Shaffer (born May 15, 1926, London, Eng.), British playwright of considerable range who moved easily from farce to the portrayal of human anguish.Educated at St. Paul’s and Trinity College, Cambridge, Shaffer first worked for a music publisher and then as a book reviewer. His first play, Five-Finger Exercise (1960), is a tautly constructed domestic drama ... view full profile

Now Playing
Dr. Paul S Newman 2/14/2014 7:02 PM
One of the greatest dramas of the 20th Century. Still vital, evocative, and accessible.
Ciara Ni Chuirc 11/29/2013 5:18 PM
Many of Peter Shaffer’s plays concern themes of worship and faith, and in “Equus” Shaffer explores these themes to their full theatrical potential. Shaffer examines two crises of faith in the characters of Martin Dysart and Alan Strang, contrasting Dysart’s lack of faith with Alan’s self-constructed theology. Alan’s alienation from any overall sense of purpose resonates as strongly today as when the play was first produced in 1973.
The heavy stylization of the play calls for the audience to enter into Alan’s troubled world of horse-worship and romanticizes his condition to the extent that his hysterical passion seems preferable to Dysart’s sane, but staid existence. Dysart even goes so far as to comment that Alan has “known a passion more ferocious than anything I have ever felt in my life. And let me tell you something: I envy it.” The effectiveness of the play is undeniable, filling the theatre with the sense of an ancient force.

For me, the play’s strengths lie in its examination of characters who are outside society, and its examinations of the influence of their beliefs on their lives. Dysart seems to support any kind of worship or devotion as preferable to the passionless existence he feels he leads. His worldview is shaken by Alan’s intense passion, and he comes to be jealous of it, first in his comment that “I envy it,” going on to say “without worship you shrink, it’s as brutal as that…I shrank my own life.” As a story, “Equus” is compelling, and the questions it raises regarding faith resonate with the reader long after the final sentence is uttered, in the dark, by Dysart.
James Harris 4/23/2013 5:42 PM
An intense and provocative psychological drama, "Equus" explores whether a mind is simply consumed by madness, or possibly surviving by escaping into a world of its own creation -- of an invented faith and passion, with secret rituals and consequences. "Equus" questions whether it is right to take away that inner life by treating and "curing" a person to be like everyone else in society, never to really feel again, never to escape back into their private world.

Inspired by a true-life story of horror, one that playwright Peter Shaffer had heard just the basics of at one time -- that of a stableboy who had blinded six horses, "Equus" is an imagining of what could possibly have created such a person, of what might possibly have happened in their life to lead to such a horrific crime.  "Equus" exploded upon the theater scene in the mid 1970s, and has continued to captivate audiences and actors alike for its stunning, dramatic duals between a patient and the psychiatrist who is struggling with his own passionless existence, and whether to cure -- or commit.

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