BWW Interview: Intrepid Fringe Opens 50 Shades of Shakespeare Production of MEASURE FOR MEASURE at The Black Labrador Pub
Never doubt the Bard's bawdiness.
Shakespeare expert hAl Evans, the director of Intrepid Fringe's new 50 Shades of Shakespeare production of MEASURE FOR MEASURE, certainly didn't. evans says he kept a tally of Shakespeare's references to being bound or tied in the play. The verdict? Over 400.
"I think Shakespeare's truer to human nature, and [there's] a lot of gray area in this play, which of course led to me thinking, hmm, with all those shades of gray -- and then the fact that he mentions restraint, being bound, tied, punishment, all these things in order to earn love -- it just seemed like a natural tie-in with where we are culturally to do 50 Shades of Shakespeare," explains evans.
The not-oft-produced play is about a Duke, Vicentio, who abdicates the throne of an out-of-control Vienna to the puritanical Angelo. Angelo is an everyman "who falls from grace and boy, does he fall hard," says evans. He attempts to blackmail the chaste Isabella into sleeping with him to save her brother -- who Angelo has imprisoned and sentenced to die on the grounds of fornication. And oh, by the way, it's a comedy.
"Here we have a comedy that is structured like a comedy in that it does end with four weddings and most of the Shakespearean comedies end with weddings, but just like TAMING OF THE SHREW, here characters are not all thrilled with the weddings and the matchups," says evans. "Shakespeare uses this play, I think, to attack the idea of the comedic structure. He uses the characters to delve deeply into what's going on inside the character."
Though evans first thought of producing MEASURE FOR MEASURE six years ago, it was just two years ago that he began moving toward his eventual E.L. James-inspired, Steampunk envisioning, following then on a winding path set against the backdrop of a long and contentious presidential campaign and election. As it played out, Shakespeare's exploration of power and the public versus private became increasingly timely.
"Angelo finds himself conflicted, [and] arranges a private setting where he can work out his lust," says evans. "It boils down to character is who you are when you're alone and think others are not watching. This play puts that in the forefront."
For with a Trumpian spin on it: "A man can say things on a bus when he's mic'd up and doesn't realize it, and that becomes public. Should he not be held accountable for that, too?" asks evans. Still, he makes it clear that it's not just the President. "How many politicians have used their positions for sexual advantage?
"[Power is] a theme that runs throughout Shakespeare, but this play gets at it in the issue of our longings. It's not about power like a Macbeth or a Marc Antony or a Brutus; it's not about the power of the state. It's about using that position of authority to subjugate others to one's own lusts and whims," says evans.
evans, who shares co-artistic and managing director duties of Intrepid Fringe with Tracy Elizabeth Hults, says the work of London's Complicite, which he's been a fan of for almost 20 years, made him want to break the fourth wall and find ways to engage the audience as "spec-actors" instead of passive viewers for this production. "I want them to come experience a play to their core so that when they leave it's a part of something they carry with them, not just, oh hey, that was a great moment," says evans.
"If we can do something on a meta-cognitive level to get them thinking about their own thinking, if we can get an audience to the level of recognizing that leads them to evaluate -- I think Shakespeare put it best, to hold "the mirror up to nature" -- and if we can do that then the audience should leave that play with a part of him or herself transformed."
At the very least, evans hopes audiences will be immersed without feeling like they're in the middle of a costume party - though costumes are more than welcome.
MEASURE FOR MEASURE opens tonight and runs through June 11 in the Makeshift Theatre at The Black Labrador Pub, 4100 Montrose. For more information, call 830-370-5907 or visit intrepidfringe.com.