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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How Shakespeare Works (an occasional series) I

Installment One: Observations from Oskar Eustis of NYC’s Public Theater

We took Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure into a maximum security woman’s prison on the West Side . . . there’s a scene there where a young woman is told by a very powerful official that “If you sleep with me, I will pardon your brother. And if you don’t sleep with me, I’ll execute him.” And he leaves the stage.

And this character, Isabel, turned out to the audience and said: “To whom should I complain?”

And a woman in the audience shouted: “The Police!” And then she looked right at that woman and said: “If I did relate this, who would believe me?”

And the woman answered back, “No one, girl.”

And it was astonishing because not only was it an amazing sense of connection between the audience and the actress, but you also realized that this was a kind of an historical lesson in theater reception. That’s what must have happened at The Globe.

These soliloquies were not simply monologues that people spoke, they were call and response to the audience. And you realized that vibrancy, that sense of connectedness is not only what makes theater great in prisons, it’s what makes theater great, period.

— transcribed from ArtBeat Nation (he shared the same story on the Charlie Rose program)

(Photo: Danai Gurira as Isabella and Michael Hayden as Angelo in Measure for Measure, directed by David Esbjornson, 2011.) 


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