Quote of the Day: The Tempter or the Tempted, who is more to blame? Angelo, in William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure performed by Ten Thousand Things Theater at The Open Book in Minneapolis through October 21 (except the Oct. 18 performance which will be at the Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Ave. Minneapolis).
I would like to thank Michelle Woster for inviting me to view and review Measure for Measure, by Ten Thousand Things Theater. They are a theater company that takes the show on the road, performing at prisons, shelters, housing projects, remote rural locations, and accessible venues. (They have hopes of coming to the Brainerd area next year.) They keep the set and props simple and representative, making it easy to set up their “stage” wherever they go. We walked into the performance space at The Open Book where the chairs were set for theater in the round. A few seats were reserved for the actors and just before it was time to start the show, the actors filled in those seats. They use this same set-up in all their venues, being quite intimate with the inmates and other patrons. You feel like you’re part of the show, inside the prison, in the judgement seat, on the streets, and in the minds of the characters as they are standing or sitting right next to you.
The director Michelle Hensley greeted us and shared some of the amazing successes they’d had performing Measure for Measure at correctional facilities. You see, this show is about justice, or the lack of it, power, and the abuse of it, and the people who get trapped in a system led by corrupt and sinister people. One person had said it was like an episode of Undercover Bosses, and by the end, I saw it, too.
The Duke, brilliantly played by Suzanne Warmanen who opens the show with a strong voice and commanding presence, calls in her second-in-comand, Angelo, and commissions him to take over the judicial affairs of Vienna while she is away. She then disguises herself as a friar and hears and sees the truth behind the actions and words of the citizens and the people who try to govern them. The Duke (dressed as a friar) becomes a confessor and a confidant to those needing to unburden themselves from their own wrongs and the wrongs done unto them. She overhears conversations, in the jail and in the courts, that shed light on the true character of those she placed in authority.
You might wonder why anyone would perform or watch Shakespeare’s plays. Aren’t these old stories of times gone by? Let’s see, in this play, people are being judged and condemned for whom they love, for acts of love that lead to “public disgrace.” Someone who should do right by another person, turns on her and away from her and thinks only of himself and his rise to power. Another wants to marry, but isn’t allowed to and is sentenced to death because of his acts of love. Angelo, the person with the power to judge and pardon, condemns Claudio for his immorality, while Angelo is lusting for and demanding worse from Claudio’s sister. The plot gets complicated and twisted. At one point Isabella, Claudio’s sister, cries out, “Who will I tell of this? Who will listen to me?” The person who has wronged her has all the power and notoriety. Angelo even says it, “Who will believe you over me?” Shakespeare gave us the first stories with these twisted and sinister plots: greed, power, helplessness for the average citizen, outcry for justice, political corruption, and moral judgements. Perhaps the creators of Undercover Bosses were influenced by this play.
Afterwards, we attended a Meet & Greet with the cast, director, and creative team of Ten Thousand Things Theater.
I’ll admit that I was a little shy about talking with the actors, but I did sit down with Suzanne Warmanen for a couple minutes to ask about her character, the Duke. I was wondering if the Duke suspected something about Angelo when she set him up to take charge. She said her main reason for turning over the power was to see if someone else would be stronger and firmer. What she found was that power can quickly go to someone’s head!