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Shakespeare is Not Easy, Let Alone Directing It

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

As someone who wants to pursue a career somewhere within the directional field, directing Shakespeare is always such an enlightening process for me. From directing “The Tempest” in high school, I can say for certain that it is not an easy process, but it is a very rewarding one.

This semester I am directing “Measure for Measure” through the Shafer Alliance Laboratory Theatre here at Virginia Commonwealth University. Shakespeare’s dark comedy centers around the Duke of Vienna, who gives his position of power to Angelo, who eagerly imprisons Claudio for premaritally sleeping with his fiancée, Juliet. Angelo comes to the conclusion that he will release Claudio if he can be with Isabella, Claudio’s feisty sister. With important themes of power and morality, “Measure for Measure” is a still-relevant piece today, with a large range of contrasting characters, both hilarious and ill-tempered.

Duke Vincentio, in comparison to other protagonists that Shakespeare writes, is very simple and straightforward with his words. He is always in a hurry, trying to carry his plans out and his down-to-Earth language is not common in your typical Shakespearean hero. Each character within this show is so prominent within their characterization, which initially drew me towards this piece.

All actors interpret Shakespeare differently. A library would see them as characters on pages, while we as actors see them as 3D humans who have objectives, motives, obstacles and tactics. They take steps to fulfill their wants, and they avoid facing obstacles. 

Measure for Measure caught my attention first as an actor. When I became more familiar with the concept of this show, I really found myself being drawn to this particular story. There are so many interesting aspects to this play that I would like to dive into, one of them being the power dynamic between each character. I am curious to explore the justification of one’s power: just because they are in a more authoritative position does not make one ‘higher’ morally speaking. This show’s themes are very prominent, which initially drew me closer to wanting to do this piece.

Throughout this process, I have been able to come to terms with the fact that many can mistake Shakespeare’s words for intellect. More commonly, the reason a character may be using their words is that “their spirit is on fire, their heart is bursting,” etc. As a director, I always encourage my actors to really listen and engage in the conversations that they are having. Taking the time to listen within a scene is crucial, as well as engaging with the environment that surrounds you. 

I want audiences to be able to appreciate comedy, or darker, comedic moments per se, through a different lens. A lot of times, Shakespeare can be viewed in many people’s eyes as confusing or rather boring, but I want audiences, especially the student body at VCU, to find a way to appreciate this form of literature for what it is onstage, and not just what they were required to read in high school or in their courses now. 

We are currently fundraising for “Measure for Measure.” We plan to incorporate period piece clothing, stained glass and a detailed lighting plot to allow this show to function. “Measure for Measure” will take place on October 15 and October 17 at the Shafer Street Playhouse. This is a free show, so I hope to see you there!

Milo is a recent graduate from the school of Mass Communications and Theatre here at Virginia Commonwealth University. They are a filmmaker and creative who strives to create honest and meaningful work in order to tell stories for voices that usually go unheard. Milo’s most recent film, Her Birthday Balloons, was awarded an original score from the Seattle Film Institute’s Film Scoring Program. You can find Milo sipping on a latte in his free time, performing onstage, or making playlists for the people he admires.