This fall, the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies (CRS) will be showcasing its first play titled “Moby Dick: A Gay Retelling.” We spoke with writer and creator Seth Knievel, a second-year master’s student in CRS, about the upcoming play.
What is the title of the play and why did you choose it?
The title of the play is “Moby Dick: A Gay Retelling,” but it is likely to change. This play will be a devised play, which means the script is likely to change. This means that the performers are going to be asked to also write parts of the show. For that reason, there’s still a lot of room for the play to change.
Why are you choosing the devised script?
In performance studies, this is a common device. I also had experienced a devised script when I was working on a play in undergrad titled “What we talk about when we Talk About Race.” Additionally, the content of the play is very personal, so allowing the performers to include their own personal narratives, experiences and feelings will make the show stronger not only for the performers but also the audience. At its core, performance is an exercise in empathy.
What is the play about?
“Moby Dick” is about a captain, Ahab, that lost his leg while trying to kill Moby Dick, an infamous whale. In an attempt to get revenge, Ahab and his crew travel the seas to meet Moby Dick. I argue that Captain Ahab is not just looking for revenge but, in a pure sense, closure. To emulate that, I created a narrative where it is a gay man trying to find his ex on the gay strip. The show is set in a bar on a gay strip where we see this individual have fun, seek revenge and get closure.
What’s your inspiration?
At the time, I was going through a rough breakup myself, so I found writing about it through the lens of “Moby Dick” was useful. Herman Melville, the author of “Moby Dick,” was also a gay man that had intense feelings for his own literary contemporary at the time, Nathaniel Hawthorne.
There is also a rich catalogue of LGBT literature that focuses on this idea of getting closure from a lover. Eventually, this journey for closure ends up ruining these characters, and the same is true for Captain Ahab in “Moby Dick.”
How do you want this play to live beyond Syracuse and your time here? What do you want the audience and Syracuse University to take away?
I see this show as a moniker of the growth I’ve had in the last year but also as a channel to empathize with people who are going through a breakup or a transitory time in life. This show has become a groundbreaking tool for advocating for space and funding. I want people who have seen this show to know that closure can be something of a distraction in the healing process. So, when we find ourselves in a situation, like Ahab, you can find more in this journey of healing. In the play, there are many other potential partners that the lead encounters but passes up in search for their Moby Dick. Being conscious of the way we use our energy or emotions in a way that is effective, efficient and ethical is important, and that is what I’m trying to demonstrate in the show.
This is the first play that the CRS department has showcased. What are the challenges you’ve experienced?
The department has been so helpful; the aid from Dr. Chuck Morris and Dr. Lindsay Gratch has been specifically instrumental in this show’s development. Since this is a new process entirely, we don’t have a space, prop closets, black boxes, sets, etc. This means I’m starting from scratch in this process. Since we do not have a space, we will be transporting all of our equipment in and out of the building after each show. Supporting this play is an impetus to more performance work being created in CRS.
“Moby Dick: A Gay Retelling” will be playing November 11-13 in the Hall of Languages. There will be postings around the University with information about the play. Anyone interested in getting involved or attending that has questions can email Seth Knievel at .
–This article was written by the CRS student news team. Contact the team at .