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Monday, June 24, 2013

Shakespeare’s dark comedy Measure for Measure at Stratford Festival

Sex, church and state collide in Measure for Measure, a scathing satire that skewers vice and questions the very nature of virtue. One of Shakespeare’s most provocative plays is now on at the Tom Patterson Theatre.

The story begins with Duke Vincentio appointing the meticulous Angelo to act as his deputy during his temporary absence.

Vowing to wipe the city clean of sins that the Duke has previously tolerated, Angelo sentences a young man, Claudio, to death for fornication. But Angelo’s own moral failings become apparent when Claudio’s devout sister, Isabella, pleads with him for her brother’s life, only to be presented with a shocking ultimatum.

The production is directed by one of the Festival’s leading artists, Martha Henry, whose Stratford career has spanned 39 seasons, including 1975’s Measure for Measure, in which she played Isabella.

“This assignment carries its own push-pull dynamics: some portions of the play I remember vividly and others seem completely new to me,” says Ms Henry. “One might think that the vivid memories would be helpful – but on the contrary, not only do you not wish to repeat what was done before, you often will deliberately avoid moments of recognition simply for that reason. Eventually, of course, the actors make it their own, and one day you realize that you could not repeat what was done before, even if you wanted to – it’s not physically possible.”

Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino programmed Measure for Measure as a complement to the 2013 production of Mary Stuart. Both driven by tensions between church, state and human desire, the plays depict people failing to live up to their own ideals, says Mr. Cimolino, “not just because they’re sinners but also because, in their rigorous pursuit of the ends prescribed in the Bible, in their zealousness, they’re fuelled by everything but true love. True love means being able to give completely of yourself for the other, to hazard all for the other, to be able to put yourself aside. And in each of these plays, people can’t put themselves aside.

“I’m excited for Measure for Measure within this season. It’s a very moving and thoughtful play that effectively blends low comedy with incipient tragedy. Martha Henry, who is one of our finest directors and a beloved member of our Stratford family, has brought out captivating performances in this phenomenal cast. I can’t imagine a better group of people to bring this play to life.”

The cast features Carmen Grant as Isabella, Stephen Ouimette as Lucio, Tom Rooney as Angelo and Geraint Wyn Davies as Duke Vincentio, with Randy Hughson as Pompey, Peter Hutt as Escalus, Christopher Prentice as Claudio and Stephen Russell as Provost.

The production’s artistic team features Designer John Pennoyer, Lighting Designer Steven Hawkins, Composer and Sound Designer Todd Charlton and Fight Director John Stead.

“We have a stupendous cast and production team for this Measure for Measure,” says Ms Henry. “Everything the actors come up with is fresh and original, the designers are amazing, and our stage management and crew are absolutely terrific! They are all gifted and skilled, and I am a very lucky inhabitress of this play – the second time around.”

Measure for Measure Forum Highlights

The Forum, the new festival within the Festival, is a series of activities and events designed to make a visit to Stratford an immersive, all-encompassing cultural experience. Through debates, talks, concerts, comedy nights, hands-on workshops and more, The Forum will offer theatregoers more ways to discover and examine the themes running through this season’s productions.

Themes related to Measure for Measure will be explored through several Forum events, including: an Exhibition Talk, in which Carmen Grant and Tom Rooney discuss their roles in the production; The Necessity of Virtue, in which Jordan Peterson, a regular guest on TVO’s Big Ideas program, examines the morality and nature of virtue in the play; Sex and Love in Verona, Venice and Vienna, a talk by Stanley Wells, Honorary President, Life Trustee and former Chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and general editor of the Oxford and Penguin Shakespeares.

The Forum also includes events led by key members of the Measure for Measure cast, including Geraint Wyn Davies Presents… “Wordplay”, in which members of the company join host Geraint Wyn Davies for a series of dramatic readings.

Support for the inaugural season of The Forum is generously provided by Kelly and Michael Meighen and the Province of Ontario, in partnership with the University of Waterloo, with media sponsorship provided by The Walrus. Support for the Speakers Series is generously provided in memory of Dr. W. Philip Hayman.

Measure for Measure runs until September 21. For tickets, contact the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit www.stratfordfestival.ca. ;

Measure for Measure is sponsored by RBC. Production support is generously provided by Karon Bales & Charles Beall.

Support for the 2013 season of the Tom Patterson Theatre is generously provided by Richard Rooney and Laura Dinner.

Stratford Direct, the new daily return private bus service between Toronto and Stratford, began May 1. Departing once daily from May 1 to 25 and October 1 to 20 and twice daily from May 27 to September 29 (on performance days only), the round trip costs only $20.

Support for Stratford Direct is generously provided by The Peter Cundill Foundation.

The Stratford Festival’s 2013 season runs until October 20, featuring Romeo and Juliet, Fiddler on the Roof; The Three Musketeers, The Merchant of Venice, Tommy, Blithe Spirit, Othello, Measure for Measure, Mary Stuart, Waiting for Godot, Taking Shakespeare and The Thrill, along with more than 150 events at The Forum.

Cast (in alphabetical order)
Mariana………………………………………...        Sarah Afful
Friar Peter-Thomas…………………………….         Nigel Bennett
Mistress Overdone…………………………….         Patricia Collins
Justice………………………………………….        Josue Laboucane
Isabella…………………………………………        Carmen Grant
Varrius…………………………………………        Brad Hodder
Pompey………………………………………...        Randy Hughson
Escalus…………………………………………        Peter Hutt
Juliet…………………………………………...         Ruby Joy
Young Friar……………………………………         Ian Lake
Lucio…………………………………………..         Stephen Ouimette
Barnardine…………………………………….         Robert Persichini
Claudio………………………………………..         Christopher Prentice
Angelo………………………………………...         Tom Rooney
Provost………………………………………...         Stephen Russell
Abhorson…………………….………………..         E.B. Smith
Francisca………………………………………         Dorcas Sowunmi
Elbow…………………………………………          Brian Tree
Froth…………………………………………..         Dylan Trowbridge
Duke Vincentio……………………………….          Geraint Wyn Davies

Artistic Credits
Director……………………………………….          Martha Henry
Designer………………………………………          John Pennoyer
Lighting Designer…………………………….          Steven Hawkins
Composer and Sound Designer………………          Todd Charlton
Fight Director………………………………...          John Stead
Producer………………………………………          David Auster
Casting Director………………………………          Beth Russell
Creative Planning Director…………………...          Jason Miller
Assistant Director…………………………….          Kevin Hammond
Assistant Set Designer………………………..          Patrice Strate
Assistant Costume Designer………………….          Holly Lloyd
Assistant Lighting Designer………………….          Sarah Mansikka
Assistant Fight Director……………………...           Geoff Scovell
Fight Captain………………………………....          Ian Lake
Stage Manager………………………………..          Ann Stuart
Assistant Stage Managers…………………….          Corinne Richards, Jessica Stinson
Apprentice Stage Manager……………………         Brenda Pilatzke
Production Assistant………………………….          Heather Bellingham
Production Stage Manager……………………         Janine Ralph
Technical Director……………………………           Sean Hirtle

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