Last Thursday The American Shakespeare Center performed Measure for Measure, by William Shakespeare, here at Loyola. My roommate who is in a Shakespeare English class was required to go to one of the three Shakespeare plays and seeing as I needed an event to go to for class we agreed upon going to this one. We got there a half an hour early in time to enjoy the preshow, which included different cast members singing and performing modern songs; it really was quite a show to watch. The fun and happy-go-lucky mood of the preshow set the stage for the how the rest of the night would go. Normally I’m not one to enjoy indulging in Shakespeare, but the way in which this company performed made me thoroughly enjoy the show, despite everything being spoken in Shakespearian language. First of all when the show started the lights stayed on. There was also a lot of audience interaction. Throughout the duration of the play, whilst still acting, members of the cast would come and sit in the audience or point to certain members in the audience, definitely making eye contact with them. There was even a point when one of the actors sat on an audience members lap and another time when they kicked the audience member out of their seat and took it. Also utilized was the use of entering and exiting by means of the audience. All of these things really helped to involve the audience members in the play and not just have us solely sitting there watching. Also to further the intertwining of audience and cast was the set-up of the stage. Just like in true Shakespearian Theater, they also had seating on the stage so as to have all-around seating and further engage the audience. All of this truly made my experience all the better.
Anyways before the show started they handed out to everyone these program-like pieces of paper that on one side listed who everyone in the cast played and on the back side listed all the “Stuff that Happens in the Play”. Going into the play I had no idea what Measure for Measure was going to be about. Immediately what caught my eye of on the list of stuff that happens in the play was that in it “Claudio is immediately arrested and sentenced to death for apparent premarital acts with his pregnant fiancée Juliet.” As the play ensued and throughout it’s entirely I found out that this wasn’t the only ‘sexual’ thing that takes place in the play, the whole play really was just about sex! I found it quite ironic, and just a little bit hilarious, as earlier in the day the topic’s we discussed in class were the same topics being addressed in the play now, sex.
During the day in class we discussed the pieces of literature The Gilded Six-Bits, To His Coy Mistress, and Jump Cable. To be blatant, the underlying theme that connects all of these pieces of work is sex. In The Gilded Six-Bits Missy May sleeps with another man in order to get more money for her husband and herself. In To His Coy Mistress Andrew Marvell spends the whole narration just talking about how, in plain terms, he really just wants to get with this one woman. Lastly In Jump Cable we concluded that the whole poem was just really a metaphor for sex.
During this class we also had a class discussion discussing whether or not it was acceptable to engage in sex before marriage and also if it was okay to openly discuss it. In the setting of a classroom I feel like people might feel a little more awkward about talking this about this topic since they would be openly discussing things in front of a teacher and strangers who they don’t know that well. But in all honestly I feel as it has become more socially acceptable to talk about. This social media culture we live in I think has certainly contributed to this. On the other hand, even though people see it as our generation being more willing and apt to socially discuss such things, I don’t think this is necessarily true. It is way past Shakespeare’s time and even in his time sex was something he was writing about. Our culture is definitely growing into being more accepting and open about it. I think this is a good thing as I don’t think it should be something we should be ashamed to discuss since it is only human nature. I feel the only reason why certain people won’t discuss it in others presence is because they are embarrassed and may not know the others well. I’m glad that here at Loyola we are able to view plays though that openly discuss this topic, because I know of places that are not as fortunate and are censored from such topics. Overall I think the troupe that performed it certainly did it in a good way by openly trying to engage the audience in the play itself, and not being ashamed in trying to connect the audience members with the topics of the play. Like I said earlier the cast members would call out and point to members in the audience. There was one point when one of the cast members was calling out to different boys in the audience and “accusing” them of sleeping with one of the characters in the play. I’m glad they at least were able to address this without there being any embarrassment of the subject on their part at all.