PSC presents Measure for Measure at Prague Castle

The play about scandals and corruption is still topical today

Prague Shakespeare Company is presenting Measure for Measure at Prague Castle for one show only on Aug. 22. The play will be performed in English.

This is the fourth year that PSC has been involved in the Castle’s Summer Shakespeare Festival (Letní shakespearovské slavnosti), which presents famous Czech actors in its own productions.

Measure for Measure is directed by Guy Roberts and features original music from Patrick Neil Doyle. The son of famed composer Patrick Doyle has several credits of own including film scores and previous work with PSC.

The play deals with the struggle between sin and virtue, with a town leader in Vienna going on a moralizing campaign but facing intrigues of his own. In light of all the current scandals in the media, it is just as timely as when Shakespeare wrote it.

“Measure for Measure is without a doubt the most important Shakespeare play today. In many ways this is the first play to directly deal with sexual harassment. Especially now in light of the #metoo movement, the questions the play raises about political and personal corruption, religious and sexual hypocrisy, fair and merciful justice are questions we are asking on a daily basis,” director Guy Roberts said.

The play is modern in that it poses very serious challenges, Roberts added. “In Measure for Measure and today’s world how do women and the disenfranchised find the courage to speak and make their truths known in a world dominated by forces bent on oppression? How do we learn to govern our society and our impulses? Does access to power always corrupt? Is it possible to truly forgive? What is more important; a human life or adherence to an ideal? What really controls us – politicians, God, sexual urges, love, family, or some other invisible innate sense of justice? How do we live a good life, especially in the face of a corrupt society? These are questions the play raises but leaves the audience to answer,” he added.

It is hard to categorize the play. “It is both a comedy and a drama, just as life is extremely funny and terribly upsetting – both emotions are experienced within moments of one another in the play. That is part of Measure for Measure’s brilliance. What makes Shakespeare so essential is that his plays and characters truly hold the mirror up to nature. People are capable of great goodness and evil, light and darkness,” Roberts said.

All of us are susceptible to both the immoral and admirable behavior in the play, he said. “It is our seemingly contradictory natures that make his plays such a reflection of our nature. Our sympathies switch given the changing circumstances of the play. This is what Shakespeare does so well – one moment we are condemning the bawdy pimps, criminals and prostitutes from the underbelly of society and the next we are empathizing with their situation and condemning the elite that have created the disease that is ravaging society,” he added.

Measure for Measure takes a dark view of religious hypocrisy, which also makes it topical. “Seemingly moral authorities use religion to justify the most immoral of behavior and then hide behind the shroud of devout religiosity. The play has the same very dark view of people in power who abuse their position in small and great ways. … It is extraordinary how little has changed and how much Shakespeare’s Vienna is similar to practically every city in the Western world now,” Roberts said.

PSC follows in a long tradition of Shakespeare being presented in English in Bohemia.

“Robert Browne’s acting troupe perhaps played Shakespeare in English in Prague as early as 1596 and then certainly in 1603. In 1619 they returned to celebrate the wedding of Princess Elizabeth to the Elector of Palatine. Shortly before that time Czech aristocrats watched plays in the Globe and other London theaters while on their travels,” Roberts said.

“Shakespeare in English also compliments the great tradition of Shakespeare performances in Czech; deepening appreciation and understanding for audiences an artists alike,” he added.

The leading roles in this production of Measure for Measure are played by PSC favorites Peter Hosking as the Duke, Scott Bellefeuille as Angelo, Abigail Rice as Isabella, John Poston as Pompey, Diego DiGiovanni as Claudio, Patrick Bentley as the Provost, Sarah E. Budge as Escalus and Bob Boudreaux as Froth.

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