Places, Everyone


The Power of Speech

Ep. 28

In Will Arbery’s play Heroes of the Fourth Turning, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize last year, a group of 20-something friends, all of whom are Catholic and politically conservative, gather for a party to toast their college professor who has become the president of their Catholic university. One of these friends is a young woman named Theresa whose right-wing views cross into alt-right territory. When I watched this play, I found the character of Theresa fascinating, particularly the way she wields speech and language to assert her political views. I agree with almost nothing she says, but her love of debate is thrilling to behold, and her confidence is magnetic. Much of that is due to the actress playing her. Zoë Winters, my guest this episode, starred in Heroes of the Fourth Turning in its world premiere production at Playwrights Horizons and reprised the role for a virtual performance during COVID that happened live on zoom. It was a remarkable difference from the last time I saw Zoë perform, which was in Bess Wohl’s play, Small Mouth Sounds –  set at a silent retreat where Zoë’s character Alicia spends the play attempting to withhold her speech. Both plays are about seeking a deeper truth either by speaking out or by being silent. In Heroes, the gateway to truth is vociferous discussion of religion and politics, while in Small Mouth Sounds the gateway is silent reflection. Zoë has performed in numerous roles on stage and screen, so it was a real delight to delve into two of her performances and examine their points of comparison around the power of speech.

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