LAWRENCE — For its spring season opener, the University Theatre will stage “Measure for Measure” by William Shakespeare and set it in the “Wild West” of Kansas. Performances are Feb. 25-27 and March 4-6, with a simultaneous livestream available Feb. 25, 27 and March 4.
Tickets for in-person performances are on sale at kutheatre.com, by calling 785-864-3982 or visiting the University Theatre Box Office, noon to 5 p.m. weekdays. Patrons can tap into the livestreamed performances link on the website to purchase stream access.
Hallowed for its ambiguity, this “problem play” challenges the audience through silence and sex, chuckles and tricks. Expect the disguise, mistaken identity and issues of morality fueling speeches commonly found in Shakespeare’s canon. From power brokers to delightful comedic characters, the classic explores themes around love, hypocrisy, merciful justice and righteousness. Themes of justice are heightened as laws suddenly become more strictly enforced.
“Measure for Measure” will be performed in the William Inge Memorial Theatre at Murphy Hall. Under the guest direction of Gabriel Vega Weissman, the creative team has situated the story in the fictional cow town of Vienna, Kansas, right after Prohibition is ratified.
“We are living in complicated and confusing times. Few plays explore the contradictions within society, government and morality as Shakespeare’s ‘Measure for Measure,’” Weissman said. “'Measure’ is the play for this moment; it is one of Shakespeare's “problem” plays. It is ambiguous and poses questions, forcing those who encounter it to make their own judgments and draw their own conclusions. While we investigate themes such as hypocrisy, forgiveness, justice and mercy, there is also much fun to be had. Shakespeare includes many of his classic tricks and tropes: mistaken identity, trickery and an array of wild characters including constable Elbow, clown Pompey, Mistress Overdone the bawd and an executioner named Abhorson. Setting this production in an 1880s Kansas cow town keeps the story close to home while allowing many of its complex themes to fully blossom.”
Vega Weissman is a professional director, playwright and educator. His directing credits include “Guards at the Taj” (Central Square Theatre, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Boston Globe Top 10 Theatre of 2018), Charles Cissel's “MUST” (produced by Bruce Willis, Theatre at St. Clements, New York City); “Dishwasher Dreams” (Castillo Theatre NYC) and “Making the Move” (Edinburgh Festival Fringe UK) as well as work directed for and developed with companies across the United States including New York Theatre Workshop, Atlantic Theater Company, American Repertory Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, San Diego REP and National Black Theatre. He has served as associate director on more than 25 shows including Broadway productions of “Hangmen” (written by Academy Award winner Martin McDonagh), “China Doll” (world premiere by David Mamet starring Al Pacino) and the 2016 Tony Award-winning revival of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” Vega Weissman is an alum of the Drama League Director's Project, Lincoln Center Directors Lab, Manhattan Theatre Club Directing Fellowship and Williamstown Theatre Festival Professional Training Program. Read more at gabrielvegaweissman.com.
Rounding out the creative team are Taiane Lacerda, a first-year MFA student in scenography from Florianopolis, Brazil, as scenic designer; Lindsay Webster, a second-year MFA student in scenography from Novi, Michigan, as costume designer; Ann Sitzman, technical coordinator for the department, as lighting designer; Kayleigh Shaffer, a recent alumna and freelance lighting and sound technician, as sound designer; Aubrey McGettrick, a recent alumna, as voice/text coach; and Jake Dutton, a recent alumnus and freelance stage manager and designer, as stage manager.
KU’s “Measure for Measure” cast members are Jeremiah Coleman, a junior in theatre performance from Wichita, as Duke; Sam Stapp, a senior in business administration from Shawnee, as Angelo; Basia Schendzielos, a sophomore in French and business administration from Shreveport, Louisiana, as Escalus; Lauren Smith, a junior in theatre performance and history of art from Topeka, as Elbow and Mistress Overdone; Anna Tracy, a senior in theatre performance and theatre design from Wichita, as Abhorson and Froth; Chris Pendry, a senior in theatre performance and film production from Lawrence, as Provost; Mickey James Pluta, a senior in theatre performance and economics from Broomfield, Colorado, as Friar Peter; Zhanhong (Steve) Li, a sophomore in film & media studies from Brooklyn, New York, as Messenger; Asher Suski, a junior in theatre performance and linguistics from Ames, Iowa, as Claudio; Jordan Ray, a sophomore in theatre performance from Topeka, as Lucio, Nicole McKinney, a senior in theatre performance and communications from Tigard, Oregon, as Mariana and Francisca; Claudia Sprague, a senior in theatre performance from Rose Hill, as Juliet and Second Gentleman; Bridget Olson, a sophomore in theatre performance from Forest Lake, Minnesota, as Pompey; and Caleb Bishop, a senior in theatre performance, as First Gentleman and Barnardine.
The University Theatre is a production wing of KU's Department of Theatre & Dance, offering six public productions during the academic year. The University Theatre productions are funded in part by Student Senate fees and supported by Truity Credit Union. For more information on the University Theatre or to purchase tickets, visit KUtheatre.com.
The department is one of three departments in the School of the Arts. As part of the KU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the School of the Arts offers fresh possibilities for collaboration between the arts and the humanities, sciences, social sciences, international and interdisciplinary studies. To learn more about the Department, visit theatredance.ku.edu.