Tackling themes that are as relevant today as they were when Shakespeare wrote them more than 400 years ago, the Appalachian Shakespeare Center at Eastern Kentucky University will perform the play “Measure for Measure” July 29 and 30 at the Ravine with free admission.
“This show is a tough one,” said Matthew Johnson, associate professor of music and director of the Appalachian Shakespeare Center. “It is ostensibly labeled a comedy – as a Shakespeare comedy boils down to the fact that the show ends in at least one wedding – and it is funny, but it does not end happily.”
The story begins as the Duke of Venice abdicates his power to the fiercely stern Angelo who cracks down on the wild happenings in their corrupt society. Making an example out of the guilty Claudio, Angelo sentences him to death for fathering a child out of wedlock. When Isabella, sister to Claudio and budding nun, comes to beg for her brother’s life, Angelo’s mask of righteousness crumbles and he offers an obscene bargain for clemency. Surrounding this indecent proposal is a rabble of clownish pimps, idiotic authority figures and hypocritical nobles, according to the Center.
“It has a lot to say about class and gender politics and seems almost written for the ‘me too’ movement,” Johnson said. “It feels like a modern play.”
Most of the cast and crew for “Measure for Measure” are EKU faculty, staff, students or alums, according to Johnson.
Performing live is special for Johnson.
“Theatre is only formed when an actor and audience pretend together,” he said. “It is a living act of magic, creating a reality in shared space, especially from a centuries-old script. It is the most human of artistic experiences.”
Performances begin at 6 p.m. Food trucks and local vendors will be on site.