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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: February ::
Measure for Measure Production
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0291  Monday, 14 February 2005

[1]     From:   R. A. Cantrell <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Feb 2005 08:43:03 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0279 Measure for Measure Production

[2]     From:   Thomas M. Lahey <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Feb 2005 08:36:24 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0279 Measure for Measure Production

[3]     From:   David Crosby <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Feb 2005 15:28:36 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0279 Measure for Measure Production

[4]     From:   Paul Swanson <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Feb 2005 18:38:59 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0279 Measure for Measure Production

[5]     From:   John Ramsay <
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        Date:   Saturday, 12 Feb 2005 04:14:26 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0279 Measure for Measure Production

[6]     From:   M Yawney <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Feb 2005 07:17:30 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0279 Measure for Measure Production


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R. A. Cantrell <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Feb 2005 08:43:03 -0600
Subject: 16.0279 Measure for Measure Production
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0279 Measure for Measure Production

 >I haven't seen the Chicago production, but my experiences seeing Measure
 >for Measure performed have not been good. I'm thinking about seeing the
 >play at Stratford, ON this coming season, but I wonder whether the play
 >can be successfully performed. Has anyone seen a Measure that left a
 >positive impression?
 >
 >Heller

Yes, about 15 or 20 years back, Kevin Kline played the Duke in a Central
Park production that was very enjoyable.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas M. Lahey <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Feb 2005 08:36:24 -0800
Subject: 16.0279 Measure for Measure Production
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0279 Measure for Measure Production

 >Has anyone seen a Measure that left a positive impression?

Yes.  I've only seen one Measure, early eighties.  I can't remember
whether it was a Long Beach State or Dominguez Hills State (both L.A.
area universities) production.  We probably discussed the play in class,
but it's the production I recall.  Because of the production, Measure
became a drama I would like to see again; well done.  I apologize for
not remembering my instructor's, the director, probably the producer's,
name.

Stay healthy,
Tom

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Crosby <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Feb 2005 15:28:36 -0600
Subject: 16.0279 Measure for Measure Production
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0279 Measure for Measure Production

Jack Heller asks,

 >Has anyone seen a Measure that left a positive impression?

At the Stratford Festival in about 1985, I saw a very powerful and
moving performance. It was set in a vaguely Eastern European
totalitarian state, where the Duke and Antonio were surrounded by
underlings dressed like members of the politburo, and where the
monumental architecture was reminiscent of Mussolini's Italy.
Announcements of public decrees were made over echoing microphones on a
festival stage resembling Red Square. And yet, the prison where
Barnardine was housed, and into which Claudio is thrust, resembled a
medieval dungeon down in the stage trap, and Barnardine was dressed in
the rags of a medieval beggar. In the scene where he reluctantly emerges
from the dungeon, he turns his back on the audience to take a piss back
into the trap, establishing his vulgarity in an emphatic way.

It was the opening of the play that most likely resembled what has been
said about the Chicago production. When we entered the theater, the
stage was already occupied by actors acting out a kind of Hollywood
fantasy of the Weimar Republic's decadent cabarets. Lots of leather and
whips, liquor being swilled, raunchy music playing as the cast enticed
arriving members of the audience onto the stage to participate in the
lewd and lascivious foreplay, confirming the suggestion that the Duke's
failure to enforce the morality laws had let the city descend into
sexual anarchy.

In summary, it was a very eclectic production, pulling resources from a
variety of places and times, and yet my experience of it then (and my
memory of it now) was that it worked wonderfully. More remarkably, my
mother and my mother-in-law (both 70-ish Midwestern housewives with
limited experience of theater, especially Shakespeare) sat quietly in
their seats, their attention never wavering from the stage, and declared
at the end (to my great relief) that the production "certainly was quite
a good show."

I also saw a very satisfactory and much more traditional staging at the
Utah Shakespearean Festival that raised many pertinent issues about
male-female relationships, and played fairly well even in Mormon country.

Regards,
David Crosby

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul Swanson <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Feb 2005 18:38:59 EST
Subject: 16.0279 Measure for Measure Production
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0279 Measure for Measure Production

The Alabama Shakespeare Festival did a really good Measure some time ago
-- maybe five years or so ago.

The sexuality and coarseness of the play were understated but hardly
ignored, and the lasting image that I remember is from the production's
end. In it, the Duke holds out his hand to Isabella, an invitation -- or
perhaps even a royal edit -- to accept his proposal in marriage.
Isabella looked at Claudio, and after a moment's pause, she reluctantly
extends her hand and walks with the Duke. Claudio takes a step forward
to protest, but with her free hand, Isabella holds her palm up,
gesturing for him to be silent and not protest her submission to the
Duke. It was evident that her acquiescence to the Duke was not joyful.

I am very much looking forward to the Stratford Festival's production
this summer. One of the Festival's most legendary productions, though I
did not see it, was a Measure for Measure somewhere in the mid to late
70's. The production starred Brian Bedford as Angelo, William Hutt as
the Duke, and Martha Henry. From what I understand, it was extraordinary.

Paul Swanson

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Ramsay <
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Date:           Saturday, 12 Feb 2005 04:14:26 -0500
Subject: 16.0279 Measure for Measure Production
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0279 Measure for Measure Production

 >I haven't seen the Chicago production, but my experiences seeing Measure
 >for Measure performed have not been good. I'm thinking about seeing the
 >play at Stratford, ON this coming season, but I wonder whether the play
 >can be successfully performed. Has anyone seen a Measure that left a
 >positive impression?
 >
 >Heller

Did you see the Stratford ON production about 20 years ago?

My son, then in his teens, and I both thought it was well staged.

Don't see why Stratford ON can't do another well staged production.

John R.

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           M Yawney <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 11 Feb 2005 07:17:30 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 16.0279 Measure for Measure Production
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0279 Measure for Measure Production

Measure for Measure is so rich and complex a work that I doubt any
production will ever completely encompass it. (Winter's Tale and King
Lear are I think equally elusive.) Also, in key scenes the action turns
on such subtle points of language and ideas, that the director and
actors must have a particular kind of sensitivity and intelligence to be
clear.

However, I have seen good productions of Measure (and bad ones). The bad
ones all took roughly the same approach, playing at degeneracy without
actually getting dirty.

The good ones all took wildly different approaches but had two things in
common. First, each took Isabella seriously and questioned her choices
without belittling her concerns. Second, each made a strong choice about
the world of the play. Vienna was variously portrayed as an Eastern
European bureaucratic society, a stinking cesspool, a moral
battleground, a repressive theocracy with a vibrant underground, and
sexually repressed bourgeois city.

Mark Lamos production at Lincoln Center in the early 1990s is especially
memorable for me since it made explicit something about the structure of
Shakespearean drama. The production demonstrated how Measure is built on
a repeated situation: Character A pleads to character B on behalf of
character C. This action recurred many times throughout with different
characters filling the A, B, and C roles. Lamos skill in
comparing/contrasting each recurrence was so striking that ever since I
have looked for repeated situations in other Shakespearean plays. This
exercise has enriched my understanding of these works, so I can say that
the Lincoln Center production of Measure taught me something important
about how to read Shakespeare.

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