Measure for Measure
by William Shakespeare
Charlotte Day - Director/Designer
Vyacheslav Komarnitsky - Assistant Director
Alexa Rae Rosenberg - Meistersinger
Performed at St Paul's Lutheran Church of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY; November 14th-19th, 2016.
Though listed in the First Folio as a comedy, Measure for Measure is one of Shakespeare’s darkest plays. It is deeply fascinated with death, with the breaking points of justice and morality, with the point at which laughter no longer redeems. Its ‘comic’ resolution – an improbable triple marriage – is achieved at a heavy price.
Yet if we did not find some kernel of redemption in Measure for Measure, we would be unable to perform it, much less watch it performed. What does ultimately make the play not only watchable but essential is its powerful argument against moral and ideological extremism. Shakespeare does not make martyrs of his characters. Rather, Isabella's zeal is diffused by her complicity with the Duke; Angelo's moral rigour shows cracks. No one is allowed to be more than merely human.
Given this is a play about the triumph of human nature over angelic, of moderation over extremism, blood over ‘snow broth’, it follows that any production has to be an orgy of humanness. This means an emphasis on the living actor, on the actor’s body and movement, on connections and tensions between actors. It means a minimal set, and maximal room for actors to move, feel, and use the (also human) audience as a stimulus.
A cast of five bent their shapes to the twenty-odd characters of Shakespeare's text. This means that some characters were constructed from whole bodies, some from twisted limbs, some pulled out of thin air.
In constructing the world of the play, we drew from sources as diverse as Dürer, Demidov, sock-puppets, stick-puppets, John Barton, Grotowski, and most importantly the text of the play itself. Our hope for this production was that Shakespeare’s poetry and its rhythms might coexist with sweat, muscle and a healthy measure of anarchy. If not peacefully, then at least interestingly.
- Charlotte Day