Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"Measure for Measure"

 When I was seven years old, my parents took me to see my first Shakespeare play, "Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. One play, that's all it took, and it was hooked. I wanted to be on that stage. I wanted to wear those beautiful costumes, say those beautiful, nonsensical words, and play pretend for hours on end.

  In June I got to fulfill this lifelong dream of mine. It wasn't in the Utah Shakespeare Festival--those guys are crazy talented, I could only dream of having half their ability--but it was satisfying nonetheless to know that I could memorize lots and lots of obscure lines written by the Bard. Lines such as, "This outward sainted deputy whose settled visage and deliberate word nips youth i' the head and follies doth emmew as falcon doth the fowl is yet a devil. His filth within being cast he would appear a pond as deep as Hell."

   I was so friggin' proud of myself when I could finally say that line verbatim. Even prouder when I figured out what the crap it meant.

  "Measure for Measure" is a . . . unique play. Even people who love Shakespeare (such as myself) are often unfamiliar with it. That is because "M4M" is one of the friggin' weirdest comedies ever.

  There are some weird tragedies I'll grant you ("Titus Andronicus", anyone?), but usually the comedies are a bit lighter. But technically the definition of "comedy" (in Shakespeare terms) is that it ends with marriages rather than deaths. And this play fits that bill in the strictest sense.

  In our "Measure for Measure", I played Isabella, a nun who is about to take her vows. Isabella's brother, Claudio, is thrown in jail for getting his common-law wife (not for realsies, though) pregnant. He is sentenced to death, because the judge in charge while the duke is "away" is . . . strict. To put it lightly.

  Isabella goes to plead his case to the very pious and upright judge, Angelo, . . . who promptly falls in love with her. He demands that she sleep with him if she wants her brother freed.


   The duke who is normally in charge is in disguise (it's Shakespeare, after all). Due to the clever disguise, he ("she" in our version) finds out about the creepiness going on and does a classic Shakespeare switcheroo. The girl that Angelo had been engaged to (but had the misfortune to lose her dowry, so he won't touch that) goes to him disguised as Isabella.
  Aaaaaand the judge still orders Isabella's brother executed--EVEN THOUGH HE TOTALLY THINKS HE JUST GOT IT ON WITH HER--because he thinks her brother will seek retribution.

ANOTHER Shakespeare switcheroo, the duke has the head of another man sent to the judge . . .

The only reason this play is considered a comedy for reals is because of this guy right here. Chuck is a master. He played Pompey, a tapster turned executioner's assistant.

  Isabella is distraught, and agrees to confront Angelo in front of a ginormous crowd.

  In the middle of all the confronting, the duke is revealed to be the duke. Then all the revelations and marrying take place, because THIS IS A COMEDY, DARN IT. Claudio's alive--HOORAY!--
This is pretty funny when you know the Duke was played by Claudio's real-life mother.
    Angelo is forced to marry Mariana (the girl he'd been engaged to before the ship-wrecked dowry disaster).
Forced marriage instead of execution. All the makings of a happy ending.
 And the duke proposes to Isabella because comedy, remember? The duke did not propose in our version, however, as the character was played by a woman and it was set in the fifties.

  If I could sum up my part in two words, they would be:

And crying.

  Often both at the same time.

  I LOVED the cast of "Measure for Measure". I had a lot of fun with them. I loved singing "We Are Siamese If You Please" with Javan, who played Claudio, in the makeup room. I loved talking Firefly, Doctor Who, and everything nerd with all the other geeks in the cast. We had interesting discussions on morality, marriage, and other serious topics that were kept respectful despite our many varied backgrounds. We really had some good times.

  That said, if asked to put on the show again, I would have to pause. This role took a lot out of me. On any given night of rehearsal, I would have to kneel and/or cry about fifteen times. Let me tell you, spontaneously sobbing and falling down in grief over and over and OVER is no day in the park. So the night of our last performance was a bit of a relief. If for no other reason than I would never have to say "Even for our [ow-er not "are", took me forever to say it right] kitchens we kill the fowl of season" again. Seriously, try saying that five times fast. 

  Despite this, I'm really, really proud of myself and my performances. I wasn't sure I could do such a heavy role justice, and I think I passed muster.

    I'd like to thank everyone involved with "Measure for Measure". To the director, for giving me a chance to live out my dream. To the cast, for being awesome. To all the crew who worked like crazy. And everyone else I'm forgetting because I'm a jerk. 

  Thank you. Really. Emotional exhaustion aside, it was great times.

1 comment:

  1. Yay pictures, it's much easier to imagine this crazy play with pictures! I can't imagine having to cry on the spot so many times--you are awesome!