The American Shakespeare Center’s production of Christopher Marlowe’s ‘Doctor Faustus’ will feature several traditional Shakespearean elements upon its arrival on Feb. 20 at ETSU.
Lead actor Andrew Goldwasser emphasizes the importance of these long-established elements, as opposed to the elements that are found in contemporary renditions of the play.
“When Christopher Marlowe or William Shakespeare were sitting down and writing these plays, they had a particular understanding of what they would be able to do to produce these plays,” Goldwasser said.
During this time, Marlowe or Shakespeare would have an idea of what type of theaters the actors would be performing in, where the audience would be located and what the actors would have at their disposals, he said.
“When you try to put them in a modern setting, with the lights off and the audience and big sound effects, [with]big set pieces that Shakespeare or Marlowe couldn’t have ever imagined,” Goldwasser said. “What you end up doing is actually ignoring bits and pieces of the play that were specifically written to be spoken in an audience, where the lights are up and there’s very sparse settings, and where the actor and the audience are just two people talking to each other.”
To keep it authentic to Shakespeare’s era, the production does not feature large set displays and the music and sound effects are entirely acoustic.
The play will also feature universal lighting, in which both the audience and the actors will be illuminated by soft lighting.
“The history of ‘Doctor Faustus’ is a cool one,” Goldwasser said. “It was an old German legend before Marlowe ever turned it into a play.”
Prior to the role, Goldwasser read several versions of the play to see how each varied.
“Although I like to get most of my information from the script,” he said.
“I’m on stage for so much of it, and I speak so many of the lines, but I have to know about the other stuff that happens.
“The things that happen in between my scenes are bolts of comedy.”
This comedic relief helps alleviate tension and allows the audience to perceive the acting as dramatic, but not unreasonably so.
“Because when I leave, there are little bursts of really fun slapstick comedy that take away tension,” Goldwasser said.
Throughout the play there will be appearances of Helen of Troy, the Seven Deadly Sins, angels, demons and Lucifer.
“From Faustus specifically, what I hope people take away from it truthfully, is that Christopher Marlowe is no second fiddle to William Shakespeare,” Goldwasser said.
“He died very young, when he was 29. He was murdered, but if he would’ve lived his full life, there’s a very good chance we’d be looking at the American Marlowe Center.”
In addition to performing, there will also be several workshops for students to attend.
“We’ll do anything from rhetoric to fights,” Goldwasser said. “We have a special effects workshop this year because ‘Doctor Faustus’ has a lot of really traditional special effects, fire and blood and things like that.”
Other workshops ASC offers include music, dance and text analysis.
“There’s a feeling in the room, when people let go and realize this is fun,” Goldwasser said. “It’s actually really exciting, it doesn’t matter that it’s old or famous or even nerdy, it’s a really great story.”