Shakespeare in the Arb promises to be different this year with one of Shakespeare’s weirdest and darkest plays, according to junior and director Andrew Kennedy.
The annual performance will be held at 2 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday. The play is being held in the Mauck Solarium instead of the Slayton Arboretum, due to weather concerns. Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” is the story of a woman about to become a nun, who plots to trap the temporary leader of Vienna in a marriage with a different woman to avoid prostituting herself to him, and to save her brother.
“It’s probably one of the few chances people will have to see it, because it’s very dark and weird,” Kennedy said. “It’s not at all what people expect from Shakespeare if you’ve read Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet.”
Kennedy said he had read “Measure for Measure” years ago and hated it, but for some reason, it stuck with him all last year. Once he took on “the mantle of directing,” he decided he would do the play and figure out why it made such an impression on him.
“I’m glad I did because I’ve discovered a lot about it that I would not have taken the time to otherwise,” Kennedy said. “It has a lot of depth especially – there’s a wealth of scriptural allusions and exploration of the nature of religious and political authority: what each can do, what they can’t do. It’s a good play.”
Sophomore Kirby Thigpen is playing Mariana, a woman betrothed to Vienna’s temporary leader Lord Angelo. She said despite rushed rehearsals and scheduling conflicts, the production is going well.
“I hope that everyone who sees it walks away both having enjoyed it and having interacted with some unique themes and ideas,” Thigpen said in an email.
Kennedy said the actors bring the play to life.
“Bringing that process to the stage brings them to life in a way that reading never can,” Kennedy said, “and you see the humanity of the characters, in both their weirdness and their darkness but in their brightness too. That’s the thing that the actors bring to the table that you don’t really get reading it for a class.”
He said nothing done for Shakespeare in the Arb is as complex or obscure as the coming performance, and he said he hopes viewers will be “confused and a little uncomfortable.”
“There’s something about this play in its grittiness and weirdness that I think touches on something that everybody experiences but doesn’t like to think about too much,” he said. “This sort of insatiable desire for power and control or passion, lust, things like that, tend to simmer below the surface. But in this play, they are on full display, and I think that’s an important thing to experience in art.”