Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Company presents ‘Measure for Measure’
Marcelle Couto | Thursday, March 17, 2022
The Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Company (NSR) is set to preform “Measure for Measure” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Washington Hall Lab Theater. Tickets may be purchased at the LaFortune Student Center box office for $5 or at the door for $7.
The tale opens with the Duke Vincentio of Vienna who, concerned with the observation of the city’s moral and political decadence, leaves on the false premise of travel and disguises himself as a friar.
In his stead, he appoints Angelo — an illustrious citizen — who, upon tasting the grasp of power, resurrects Vienna’s ancient punitive laws.
Claudio, a young man who impregnated his beloved Juliet before marriage, is the first to suffer under Angelo’s reign, as he faces the prospect of a death sentence, his sister Isabella, a novice, decides to intercede for her brother.
Angelo, however, is irreducible, unless Isabela agrees to exchange her virginity for Claudio’s freedom.
Sophomore Dominic Keene, who plays Duke Vincentio, described the play.
“It’s an interesting mix between really serious and important topics, but at the same time it’s very funny,” Keene said. “People who know Shakespeare will be quick to point out how ‘Measure by Measure’ is a ‘dark one,’ and how you feel heavy after you leave the show.”
Although Keene shared this sentiment when auditioning, he said he was stunned by the dynamic humor layered across the writing.
“I don’t think any of us realized how fun it would be and how funny so much of it is, despite it being very dark as well,” he said.
Junior Emily Hannon, who plays Escalus, spoke on her opinion of the play.
“The humor of the show is absurd, or over-the-top and ridiculous, which I think provides clarity and makes heavier topics more comfortable to deal with,” she said. “Indeed, NSR did the most to accentuate the impeccable humor, and seeing the show guarantees a highly enjoyable as well as profound experience.”
Director and senior Alex Ford commented on her creative structural innovations, citing modern-day issues like clergy abuse.
“I chose to set it in the 1980s because the themes of this show felt very relevant to that time,” Ford said. “The most important thing to me was that people understood both that this was a problem that had been going on in every time, that is, sexual assault and people in positions of power abusing that power.”
Ford continued by describing the power imbalance between characters in the play.
“We see the duke is able to use his assumed position as a friar to claim moral authority over Isabella, although you can sometimes tell by her face, she is morally conflicted over some of what he mandates, but he is part of her order, and she has taken a vow of obedience,” she said.
Ford’s desire to share this work stemmed from the prevailing relevance of the themes of religion, which are especially relevant to the Notre Dame community.
“It’s a show that deals very directly with Catholicism, like when we see the sacraments happen on stage as people are offered final confessions before their moment to die,” she said. “If there’s ever a place I would want to do this show it’s at Notre Dame where people are tuned into those more Catholic elements.”
NSR’s additions to the play highlight the theme of mercy, and what it means to “be a religious person in a secular world,” according to Ford.
“How do you structure that society, how do you function as an individual, when you have moral obligations to your religion?” she said. “We see what a good thing it is for Isabella, how it brings comfort to Claudio before all the madness happens. This felt like the right place to have that conversation about Catholicism and the world.”
Ford also spoke on the atmosphere of the NSR, citing the unity in the cast.
“Everyone who is in this club feels like they fit in because the only way to fit in is to be yourself,” Ford said. “That’s the only thing we have in common — we’ve got engineering majors, [Program of Liberal Studies] majors, business majors, people as close as in South Bend, or as far away as Mumbai, and we all love each other and love making art with each other.”
Junior Grace Gasper, who plays the provost, discussed the beauty in the ending of the play.
“It’s very beautiful in the end,…” she said. “The show being about mercy in the end is what makes it stand the test of time. It is heartbreaking and beautiful. You leave the show with an idea of what could be a better way to live your life, and how that’s not always a happily ever after.”