Titus Andronicus (Roman general) Played by: R. Paul Sardanas
Tamora (Queen of the Goths) Played by: Rose Rosen
Lavinia (Daughter of Titus) Played by: Lucy Martins
The original Shakespeare play is one of his most violent works, but that will be considerably toned
down in this performance. While many survivors experience strong catharsis in the exploration of
violent themes, there is no intent to re-traumatize listeners and readers by going too far. Also, the
good-and-evil characterizations from the original will also be deepened and shaded, so that the
characters will have nuanced emotions.
In short, the story begins with Titus, a Roman general, returning home after a successful war against
the Goths. Among his prisoners are Tamora, the Goth queen, and her three sons. Upon returning to
Rome, a sacrifice of Tamora’s eldest son takes place under Titus’ orders, despite her protest and plea
for dignity and mercy. Titus considers this a just balance against the loss of some of his own sons
during the war, but Tamora vows revenge.
After the ceremonies celebrating the war’s end, a new emperor of Rome is chosen – Titus himself
declines the position, anointing Saturninus as the new emperor. Titus’ daughter, Lavinia, is then
demanded by Saturninus as his empress, but she refuses, instead running away with the new
emperor’s brother, whom she loves. The spurned Saturninus meets Tamora and is immediately
smitten by her strength of will, beauty and pride – to the astonishment of the Romans, he chooses her
as his empress.
Tamora and Titus are then locked into a cycle of mutual vengeance that wreaks havoc on their
families. In a complex series of manipulated events, all of Titus’ sons but one are killed, and his
daughter Lavinia is assaulted and traumatized. Titus kills Tamora’s remaining sons, and finally the
empress herself. Titus’ life ends at the hands of the emperor. Again, if you read the play or watch
movie or stage versions, you will see wild levels of horrifying violence. Those will not appear in this
version. The atmosphere throughout will be one of restraint in exploring the violent themes.
In the original, Lavinia is also killed, but in this version she will survive, becoming an embodiment of
the desire for healing, and the dignity in a survivorship that rejects and breaks from violence.
The performance is presented free online, and at the end of the performance, the written recitations
will be collected into book form, published, and sold to benefit CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse).
R. Paul will also publish a production diary online and in the book, exploring how the events of the
play illuminate and provide catharsis for survivors and the special issues that they face.
Titus is no hero – he makes cruel decisions and
justifies them in his own mind, and makes poor
choices that put his family at risk. Instead of trying
to stop violence, he escalates and returns it. But
he is kind and steadfast to his family, and mourns
the pain his actions bring on them.
The Goth Queen is fierce, proud, sensual and
filled with what she feels is justifiable anger at
her treatment in the aftermath of war. But where
in the original play she is remorseless, in this
version she will question and become angry also
with the unrestrained brutality of the actions
against Titus’ family. She has a sense of honor
and even pity upon finding her revenge running
beyond the bounds of control.
In the original play, Lavinia is physically mutilated
by her assailants so that she cannot speak or write
to accuse them. In this version there is none of the
grotesque violence; Livinia’s trauma will take the
form of intense PTSD, which paralyzes her voice
and other ability to communicate – her recitations
will come in the form of internal dialogue, as she
struggles with the aftermath of the assault and the
continuing acts of revenge all around her. At times
her recitations will be dreamlike, as she disconnects
from her body and the world in her effort to cope,
and at other times the will move through anger,
sadness, fear, and finally a tenuous peace.
In many ways these three characters provide a unique opportunity to dig deep into the painful
concepts and experiences of lives touched by abuse. We will explore that world with intensity,
yes…but also with care, so that as entertainment this story can offer an aware presentation of
survivor traumas…but also can also offer elements of hope and strength.
"The Death of Revenge: Titus Andronicus"