Recommended Readings: Measure for Measure

 If you are interested in learning more about the historical context of Measure for Measure,  dramaturg Ryan McRee recommends the following materials he used in his research for the production:

1. Shakespeare and London by Duncan Salkeld

Stratford made the man, but London made the phenomenon that is Shakespeare. This volume explores Stratford’s various links with the capital, significant locations for Shakespeare’s work, people with whom he associated, his resistance to pressure from the City authorities, and the cultural diversity of early modern London. It sets out details about those who inhabited Shakespeare’s milieu, or played some part in shaping his writing and acting career.

2. Power on Display: The Politics of Shakespeare’s Genres by Leonard Tennenhouse

This study of Shakespeare pursues the thesis that the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre “staged displays which created political literacy…the stage was a place for disseminating an iconography of state.”

3. The Malcontent by John Marston

The Malcontent is an early Jacobean stage play written by the dramatist and satirist John Marston circa 1603. The play was one of Marston’s most successful works. The Malcontent is widely regarded as one of the most significant plays of the English Renaissance; an extensive body of scholarly research and critical commentary has accumulated around it.

4. The Political Works of James I by James I and Charles Howard McIlwain

The political writings of King James I (1566 – 1625) of England and Scotland.

Understanding Measure for Measure

The Many and the One: Leadership and the Public Body in Measure for Measure

Painting of Jacobean London courtesy of earlymodernengland.com

Shakespeare wrote Measure for Measure at a historical juncture when England was rapidly changing, and was rather vulnerable because of it. Queen Elizabeth I had recently died, ending a 44-year long period of relative stability and prosperity, and one that would later be known as a golden era for arts and culture. Though several of his greatest tragedies were still to come, Shakespeare had made a name for himself as one of London’s most esteemed and prolific playwrights, and his Lord Chamberlain’s Men was one of the city’s two most popular theater companies.

In 1603 the London theaters were shut down in response to the plague, which was coincidentally the year that King James VI, King of Scotland and cousin to Elizabeth, ascended to the throne as King James I of Great Britain and Ireland, unifying the English and Scottish monarchies. In this transition James faced both a great deal of resistance and a plethora of English nobility flocking to him for patronage. He faced opposition from Catholics, critics of the English- Scottish union, and even small sects of Parliament who were eager to be rid of the monarchy altogether. He quickly set out to amass allies, and one of his earliest acts as king was to become the sole patron of all the major theaters in London. Whereas before the theaters were usually financed by a wealthy nobleman, James eliminated all private sponsorship and ensured that the Crown be made responsible for the financial health of the theaters. He did so not merely as a form of censorship, but because he felt the nourishment of culture was one of his primary duties as monarch. That being said, it didn’t hurt that these very public centers of entertainment and discourse were now under his direct supervision and largely indebted to him for their survival.

When the theaters reopened in 1604, a curious trend swept across the theatrical landscape: all the major dramatists of London were writing very similar stories in a unique genre that later critics would label the “absent ruler plays.” These plays usually featured a central character, a king or high-ranking nobleman of sorts, who took on a disguise to observe how his realm functioned in his absence. In every instance, deputies and surrogate leaders were put in charge. They made a mess of things and essentially brought ruin to society; order was only restored once the true ruler unmasked himself and set everything right. One can easily see how this type of play benefited James tremendously, and communicated to the masses the absolute need for monarchy.

Shakespeare was very much in alignment with his contemporaries when he wrote Measure for Measure. Although several of Duke Vincentio’s actions may seem puzzling to a contemporary audience, the play offers little solution for any of its social problems other than those he’s capable of providing. Though today Elizabeth and James seem towering figures of the English monarchy, the reality at the time was far more fragile. Consider that only one generation later, James’s son Charles I was deposed and beheaded by Oliver Cromwell’s revolutionaries. James needed the English people to have faith in the absolutism of his position and the theaters provided a very effective outlet by which to reach them.

At the same time as the “absent ruler” phenomenon, there was a growing interest in “city comedy” as a genre, which differed significantly from Elizabethan comedy that had been largely pastoral in setting. In the last 50 years, London had begun to experience a major population boom and a concentration of people into cramped, urban settings that led to public health concerns, disastrous overcrowding and city management crises, and, perhaps most significantly, the notion of the “public” at all. As London was becoming a city of greater and greater diversity, so was it becoming a city of increasing strangerhood, where people judged each other not by prior-known reputation but instead by images and stereotypes. City comedies then featured diverse casts of characters from all walks of life, from prostitutes to laborers to clergy to merchants to nobility. Frequently plays in this genre made use of a substantial number of supporting characters playing bit parts in order to flesh out the larger world of the play’s setting. In order to accurately capture the spirit of the urban environment, one had to have the feeling that any type of character could walk onto the stage at any moment.

While Measure for Measure is not always classified as a city comedy, many critics have labeled it one of Shakespeare’s closest approximations of the genre. In his examination of the functions of law, order and justice in society, Shakespeare presents to us a complex portrait of that society, with its various strata of rank and privilege, and the various places from which disease can spring in the “body politic,” to use the buzzwords of the time.

As urban life became the norm for many Englishmen, they began to understand themselves as a unified whole that could only survive and function as a unified whole — one that required a central figure, or head, to direct its functions to reach maximum capability. The plays of the early Jacobean era maneuvered skillfully and consciously the lines between plurality and singularity, addressing arising concerns about the “publicity” of life by demonstrating the need for exceptional leadership, and encouraging absolute loyalty and blind faith in it. This may be a challenging narrative to engage in for a 21st-century audience inclined toward democratic ideals, but Measure for Measure still asks timely questions: what do we expect of our leaders, and how can we build a society that still manages to function fairly and dispense justice when our leadership isn’t up to the task?

– Ryan McRee, Dramaturg

 

 

Costume Renderings

The design elements of a play are integral to bringing the story and the director’s (or in the case of Measure for Measure the directors’) vision to life. Costumes, lighting, set, sound – no matter how seemingly simple or complex – help to envelop the audience in the story as much as the actors saying their lines does. In fact, for many actors, having the design elements available during rehearsal, especially costumes, helps them to connect more deeply to their character and surroundings.

 

Allison Dillard, our costume designer for Measure for Measure, shares some of her costume renderings. This is a special peek into the creative process, as these were done even before rehearsals began and audiences usually only get to see the finished product. What audiences see on stage can be different from original renderings. Designs may go through many iterations from original concept to final result during the rehearsal process as directors and designers realize new needs for the production.

 

Scroll through these drawings and then take a look again after seeing the show. How similar are these original concepts from what you actually saw on stage during our production?

 

Meet the Artist- Lloyd Roberson II

Meet Lloyd Roberson II, the Provost in Measure for Measure, who seems to have made it his personal mission to dispel the myth that actors aren’t into sports.

  1. Where would you move to if you could live anywhere? It’s a toss up between Paris and Athens.
  2. What is one food you cannot stand? Uni.
  3. What do you listen to on your commute? Audiobooks (fantasy, sci-fi, action, adventure, with a little romance) and music (Kendrick Lamar, Har Mar Superstar, Lizzo, etc.)
  4. What was the first play you ever did? Underground Jungle
  5. Where was the coolest place you’ve visited? I love to travel and fell in love with a lot of places. But, if I have to make a choice the drama of Yosemite National Park would be my answer at this point.
  6. Did you ever have a celebrity crush? Yes. Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry, and Jennifer Love Hewitt.
  7. Are you a sports fan? Yes! Go Chargers! Go Clippers!
  8. What is your dream role? Titus Andronicus
  9. Are you usually early or late? Personally late, professionally on time.
  10. What skill would you like to master? Growing/maintaining grass.
  11. How do you relax after a long day of work? Watching sports.
  12. What movie world would you want to live in? Asgard

Meet the Playwright- Sean Abley

Get to know Sean Abley, whose play Tea Party is one of six being featured in LAB RESULTS 2020.

 

1. What book or play do you reread over and over? The Stand by Stephen King; anything by Sam Shepard

2.   What was the first play you wrote? Robert Wilfred Witmark on His Life, Taking Liberties, and the Pursuit of Other Stuff. (I was 16!)
3.   Do you have a favorite playwright? Sam Shepard. I’m a student of Off-Off Broadway and have read everything he’s written.
4.   Do you prefer writing comedy or drama? Almost every play I’ve written has both so… both!
5.   Is your workspace pristinely organized or cluttered? Are you asking me or my husband?
6.   If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? Lasagna.
7.   Do you collect anything? Horror movie reference books.
8.   What is one of your favorite smells? Eucalyptus.
9.   What is the best compliment you’ve received? “Your play will change people’s lives.” (I’m not sure I believe it, but I was stunned when they said it.)
10.     Do you like surprises? I like surprises that involve cake, travel, or someone picking up the check.
11.     Create your perfect ice cream sundae. Brownie, vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and whipped cream.
12.      What song always gets you on the dance floor? Anything by ABBA
13.      Do you have a go-to joke? Three peanuts were walking down the street in a bad section of town and one was a-salt-ed.
14.     Road trips or planes? Road trips! I’m a terrible flyer!

Meet the Playwright- Matthew Doherty

Get to know Matthew Doherty, whose play Brothers Play is one of six being featured in the 2020 LAB RESULTS and whose taste in jokes is NSFW.
1.   What book/play do you reread over and over?
    Rilke’s Letters to A Young PoetThe Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning by Ernest Kurtz
    & Katherine Ketcham.
2.   What was the first play you wrote?
   After The Flood.
3.   Do you have a favorite playwright?
   August Wilson
4.   Do you prefer writing comedy or drama?
   I like to mash up both and make people feel uncomfortable and question whether it is okay to laugh.
5.   Is your workspace pristinely organized or cluttered?
   Depends on where I am in process but working in kitchens I like the clean as you go mentality / don’t cross contaminate.
6.   If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
   Breakfast scrambles.  With fresh herbs and toast.
7.   Do you collect anything?
   Sports cards.  Outdoor gear.
8.   What is one of your favorite smells?
   Night-blooming jasmine
9.   What is the best compliment you’ve received?
   I was recently told my meatballs were some of the best a certain person I love ever had and she’s had both Swedish and
   Italian.   Oh and I am told I am an expert in contingencies.
10. Do you like surprises?
   Depends on the surprise.
11. Create your perfect ice cream sundae.
   Bananas foster with vanilla extract cinnamon.  Some roasted walnuts.  Real whipped cream.  And vanilla ice cream.
12. What song always gets you on the dance floor?
   Anything funky or by James Brown.   But also “As” by Stevie Wonder.
13. Do you have a go-to joke?
   Too many.  And none are appropriate to tell.
14. Road trips or planes?
   Road trips.  I know all the roads.

Meet the Playwright- Jennifer Rowland

Get to know playwright Jennifer Rowland, whose play Jamal is one of six being featured in LAB RESULTS 2020.

 

1. What book or play do you reread over and over?
     I reread Death of a Salesman about once a year.
2. What was the first play you wrote?
     I wrote plays with my best friend, Andy Podell, from about 3rd grade on. Not sure I can come up with a title of the first masterpiece. Since my primary purpose was to star in the shows, I made sure the parts were always good for me!
3. Do you have a favorite playwright?
     My favorite playwright tends to change depending on what I’ve seen or read lately that has really moved me. So lately, the top two are August Wilson and Jez Butterworth. But I love Martin McDonagh, Noel Coward, Conor McPhearson, David Grieg, Alan Ayckbourne, Peter Schaffer and Wendy Wasserstein.
4. Do you prefer writing comedy or drama?
     I love writing comedy, but haven’t written one in a while. However, I would say all my plays are bittersweet.
5. Is your workspace pristinely organized or cluttered?
     I was going to say my workspace was very tidy, but my husband says cluttered, without a doubt. All in the eye of the beholder, I guess.
6. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
     My one meal for the rest of my life would be Linguine alle Vongole. Fresh clams please! and NO cream- I’m a purist.
7. Do you collect anything?
     I don’t think of myself as a collector, but I do have a lot of china. A lot.
8. What is one of your favorite smells?
     My favorite smell is probably the witch hazel at Wawona just as you reach Hill’s Hole.
10. Do you like surprises?
     I hate surprises. Hate hate hate surprises. They are almost never good.
11. Create your perfect ice cream sundae.
     The perfect ice cream sundae was from Blum’s in San Francisco: Vanilla ice cream with hot fudge sauce that hardened when it hit the cold ice cream and coffee crunch sprinkles from their famous coffee crunch cake. (Blum’s sadly closed a long time ago. Happy fixture of my childhood.)

Meet the Artist – Armin Shimerman

Meet The Artist- Armin Shimerman, Antaeus Company Members, is one of two directors working on our next production, Measure for Measure. Best known by his fans as Quark from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Armin is also an accomplished Shakespearean scholar and teacher. Get to know him better by reading below!

 

1. Where would you move to if you could live anywhere?
If there were no complications with language, medical attention, access to friends: I would be very happy to spend the rest of my life living on Lake Como, Italy. Otherwise, I’m very happy in Los Angeles.

2. What is one food you cannot stand?
Gefilte Fish

3. What do you listen to on your commute?
I constantly listen to the news. Mostly CNN. If not that then Classical music or Broadway tunes.

4. What was the first play you ever did?
Twelve Angry Men

5. Which of Shakespeare’s characters are you most like and why?
I suppose I’m closest to York in Richard II: an old man who tries to mediate between younger stronger people.

6. Where was the coolest place you’ve visited?
Have I mentioned Lake Como? After that, the Chyrotherapy shop in Studio City—very cool.

7. Did you ever have a celebrity crush?
Dale Evans

8. Are you a sports fan?
Not ever! But if chess counts –Bobby Fisher

9. Are you usually early or late?
10. Always early. Was reprimanded once by a good friend for being late. Tried never to do that again. When I am late, its usually Kitty (my wife’s) fault.

11. What skill would you like to master?
Piano and typing

12. What’s your dream role?
The next one offered me

13. What food do you crave?
Vegetable burritos

14. What fad or trend do you hope comes back?
Reading books

15. How do you relax after a long day of work?
Solitaire

16. Which movie world would you want to live in?
Shakespeare in Love

Stage Highlights- 2019

2019 marked a significant turning point in the storied history of Antaeus Theatre Company. We were thrilled to receive seven LA Drama Critics Circle Awards – the most of any theater this year! We also connected with new audiences when our award-winning production of Native Son was selected by Center Theatre Group for an encore run as part of their 2019 Block Party.

Then, this Fall, we achieved an exciting milestone in producing new work developed in our Playwrights Lab, and the response has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic.

Antaeus Theatre Company is a unique community where artists illuminate diverse human experiences through performance, training and outreach; an actor-driven theater, rooted in values of creative freedom and artistic excellence; a sanctuary for performers and audiences alike.

Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights from the past year. We share this with you because everything we do is made possible by the generosity of our community, and we want you to feel proud of what you’ve helped us achieve. For a full review of the past year, see the 2019 Annual Report.

 

 

The Little Foxes
2019 LA Drama Critics Circle Winner: Best Revival, Featured Performance (Rob Nagle), Set Design (John Iacovelli), and Best Ensemble

 

 

The Cripple of Inishmaan
“A brilliant revival of an exquisite play… superb cast… do not miss.” — Paul Myrvold, Theatre Notes

 

Native Son
“Razor-sharp focus and clarity from director Andi Chapman and her stellar Antaeus ensemble steer us through wild leaps in time.”  — Philip Brandes, LA Times

 

Diana of Dobson’s
“Abigail Marks more than fills the shoes of Diana with her relentless command of the stage… firecracker of a woman (and a play) to experience.”
 Gil Kaan, Broadway World

 

The Caucasian Chalk Circle
“In sequences of hauntingly beautiful physicality, the ensemble forms the banks of a rippling stream or a treacherous mountain bridge.“ 
— Philip Brandes, LA Times

The Abuelas
A modern tragedy of Shakespearean proportions…bolstered by nuanced performances by the entire cast.” 
— John Lavitt, The Hollywood Times

 

Eight Nights
“CRITIC’S CHOICE…sharply written, expertly performed, and staged with breathtaking emotional impact.”  — Philip Brandes, LA Times

 

 

Whether tackling beloved masterworks with The Little Foxes and The Caucasian Chalk Circle, a forgotten classic like Diana of Dobson’s, a fresh adaptation like Native Son, reviving a contemporary hit like The Cripple of Inishmaan, or taking the bold step into production of new work with The Abuelas and Eight Nights, everything we do at Antaeus is designed to demonstrate our core commitment to artistic excellence while providing opportunities for audiences to experience rareexcitingtransformative theater.

“In a word, theatre doesn’t get any better than this.”
 Eric A. Gordon, People’s World

Meet the Artist- Jeanette Farr

Meet Jeanette Farr, playwright of Turning Over, one of six plays being featured in LAB RESULTS 2020.

1.   What book or play do you reread over and over? Anything written by Tennessee Williams; and Our Town by Thornton Wilder which, as with each phase of life, tends to become richer and richer with age, but a good reminder to live every moment. I will always see an August Wilson or Theatre of the Absurd (Beckett) if in production.
2.   What was the first play you wrote? I think I was about 6 years old. I also played the mean old witch and performed it for the neighborhood.
3.   Do you have a favorite playwright? Tennessee Williams. I’ve been told I write a bit like Sam Shepard; I really like Steven Adly Guirgis and am currently exploring Sarah Ruhl, Audrey Cefaly, and our own Stephanie Walker and Jennifer Maisel. 4.   Do you prefer writing comedy or drama? I think there’s a little of both in my writing. As in life. Tragedy plus time equals comedy, they say…
5.   Is your workspace pristinely organized or cluttered? Pretty much cluttered, but I know where everything is.
6.   If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? I love a good burrito – so much can fit in that tortilla, right?
7.   Do you collect anything? I used to collect frogs. Now I have a soft spot for journals and composition books with interesting covers.
8.   What is one of your favorite smells? Coffee (although I rarely partake) and freshly cut grass
9.   What is the best compliment you’ve received? This one is tough. And tough to receive as I am so humble. I’m learning to simply accept them and say “thank you”.
10. Do you like surprises? Depends. Pleasant ones. Unexpected letters. Theatre is full of surprises (or has the potential, right?)
11. Create your perfect ice cream sundae: Vanilla ice cream, hot fudge (thick and not completely melts everything), toasted almonds, whipped cream and two cherries. Now I want one!
12. What song always gets you on the dance floor? Something funky. Bruno Mars gets me to sing out loud!
13. Do you have a go-to joke? I did, but not appropriate to tell here.
14. Road trips or planes? Road trips! Snacks, music, conversation and you learn so much with the people you are road-tripping with.