American Players Theatre
5950 Golf Course Road
P.O. Box 819
Spring Green, WI 53588
Box Office: 608-588-2361
For your consideration, we offer this rare Shakespearean puzzle, imbued with timeless questions about morality and power designed to set the mind whirring. At its soul lives Isabella, perched atop a pillar of impenetrable virtue, and surrounded by a city steeped in debauchery. A wolf in judge’s clothing has been left to guard the flock, and life-and-death choices must be made to keep this wolf at bay. In such a climate, even the righteous aren’t without sin. A complex and powerful look at the battle to be our best selves.
Opens August 18.
Featuring: David Daniel, Casey Hoekstra, Gavin Lawrence, Melisa Pereyra, John Pribyl, James Ridge, Roberto Tolentino, Marcus Truschinski
The city of Vienna is rife with vice, and good Duke Vincentio wants to put a stop to it. So in hopes that a new leader will change the people’s wicked ways, he steps down and appoints his trusted minister Angelo to rule in his place. But as Angelo assumes control of the city, his hunger for power grows, and he reinstates strict morality laws with deadly penalties. Claudio, the first to feel the bite of these laws, calls upon his sister Isabella, an aspiring nun, to help prove his innocence. But when Isabella approaches Angelo and appeals to his better nature, she finds he doesn’t have one, and must choose between her brother and her virtue.
Shakespeare is always surprisingly relevant…always. But the wildly
contemporary resonances of Measure for Measure at this particular moment
are a bit shocking. In the play, Shakespeare presents two vivid examples of
what I would call “bad” leadership: the leader as ostrich (head in the sand),
and the leader as autocrat and hypocrite. The play centers on the latter:
the morally unsound passing moral judgment on everyone around him.
Fast forward to 2018, and hypocrisy seems to be ruling the day!
When I directed the play 11 years ago at Idaho Shakespeare Festival, it
seemed impossibly close to the bone. Right as we opened, Senator Larry
Craig was arrested on charges of lewd conduct in a men’s room in the
Minneapolis airport. This is the same senator who had continually and
vigorously voted against gay rights.
As I write this, one of the great icons of television: the super Dad and
king of G-rated comedy has been found guilty of sexual assault. The
persona he created and who he actually turned out to be are diametrically
opposed. We are seeing this everywhere—leaders in absolutely every field
are being exposed for abuse of power. The #MeToo movement has given
victims all over the world the courage to come forward and call out their
abusers – many of whom were hiding in plain sight. Leadership has become
synonymous with wielding and abusing power. To my way of thinking, great
leadership is not about power at all —it’s about responsibility. I wonder if
Shakespeare thought hypocritical leaders were the exception or the rule.
Shakespeare took the title of the play from a passage in the Geneva Bible
from The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:1-2: Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be
judged, and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
The first line sounds like good advice: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
But what should we think about the rest of the passage? What happens
when a corrupt leader comes to judgment? If a leader puts someone to death
for a certain crime and then commits that same crime, is it right to put that
leader to death? Is “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” the right way to
go? Whatever you may believe, there is no denying that the challenges of
leadership and governance are enormous. I guess that’s why we’ll always be
yearning for leaders with integrity.