An all-female cast from BJU’s theatre department will finally get to showcase their work from last semester, Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure on Oct. 16 and 17 at 6:30 and 9 p.m. in Rodeheaver Auditorium.
This production was originally scheduled for last spring, but the performance was delayed due to COVID-19. The reschedule and changes in protocol due to the pandemic have provided a challenging yet exciting experience for those involved as there have been role and blocking changes.
Theatre department head and director of Measure for Measure, Dr. Erin Naler said the cast put on a spontaneous performance in March right as the academic year pivoted to online instruction. A few seniors from the class of 2020 had roles in Measure for Measure to fulfill their capstone, so Dr. Naler still wanted to provide them the opportunity to act.
As the fall 2020-21 academic year started, a few of the roles had to be recast to fill the roles of the seniors who had graduated.
Junior nursing major Susannah Smith, playing Claudio, went from having a few lines in her previous role to now acting in several scenes. She said she is grateful for the opportunity to hold a more major role than before. “[My character] is very young, somewhat impulsive and very passion driven in everything that he does,” Smith said.
Senior theatre major Mary Conn, playing lead role Isabella, said changing roles from Claudio to Isabella has been a challenge. “My type cast is the opposite of who [my character] is,” Conn said.
Naler sums up the play with the word forgiveness. The plot contains forgiveness over an uncomfortable act at the end that one would presume unforgiveable.
License and legalism serve as the two extremes that dictate circumstances. One ruler lets the people do whatever they desire, while the other firmly enforces all laws. Naler said the ultimate resolution falls on the lines of finding the middle ground. “There is always a third way to handle things,” she said.
One element noted by a few of the actors in the play is the relatability of the plot. “It is surrounded by mercy, [and] my character represents mercy,” Conn said. She also said the meanings of the play are clearer due to the fact that it has been long rehearsed.
Another notable aspect of this drama is that the play consists of an entirely female cast. “We are telling [this] story as all women,” senior theater major Elisabeth Scroggins said. She also said the play is very personal to her since she knows a lot of people who have been in similar situations to the ones depicted.
Naler said having an all-female cast provides an opportunity for more females to act, especially since theatre is a female-dominated major. It also falls consistently in line with Shakespeare’s practice of casting all men.
Naler also said that an exclusive female voice adds another perspective to the story. “By giving the story to women to tell, it almost allows [the main issues] to be discussed a little bit more frankly,” Naler said.
The design of the wicker set and costumes center primarily on the color white. Naler made this design decision because she wanted to convey fragile femininity. The setting as a whole falls under the theme of fantasy Victorian.
The audience should be on the lookout for several elements during the performance, including complex characters. Naler noted that there is a clown, whom when encountered, will likely make a person very uncomfortable.
The other thing to take note of is the aesthetic. Naler described it as a great plains aesthetic that looks like a horizon.
Both the director and actors encourage students to come see the production. Naler delves into even deeper meanings that come out of theater. “Theater is showing humans what humans do. . . It is reflecting who we are,” she said. Naler said theater is intended to create empathy in us so that we may see ourselves and feel uncomfortable.
Each Measure for Measure performance seats 75 people. Tickets should be purchased in advance at the ticket office or at bju.universitytickets.com.