Shakespeare Theatre Company Presents Measure for Measure

Aug 5, 2013
Lansburgh Theatre

The Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC), recipient of the 2012 Regional Theatre Tony Award, presents a world in moral free fall with director Jonathan Munby's evocative vision of William Shakespeare's play, Measure for Measure. Munby's production, which places Shakespeare's story in a Fascist, late 1930s Europe steeped in cabaret culture, presents the dual nature of humanity as both tragic and comic. Measure for Measure will play at the Lansburgh Theatre (450 7th Street NW) from September 12-October 27, 2013.

When the Duke of Vienna takes a leave of absence and hands his power over to the iron-fisted Angelo, a new regime begins which brings the very definitions of vice and virtue into question. Measure for Measure centers on the terrible choice asked of Isabella, a novice nun, by the hypocritical Angelo as he tries to cleanse the city of its impurities. Isabella must decide whether to sacrifice her virginity to Angelo to save her brother Claudio's life, or to remain virtuous and allow him to be killed. The Duke, who returns incognito to Vienna, must also decide how to resume governance of an unruly state.

Munby, who received a Helen Hayes Award nomination for Outstanding Director for his production of The Dog in the Manger at STC in 2009, said he sees 1930s Austria as the perfect context to unlock Shakespeare's moral queries. The period, Munby related, "was an incredibly fertile time and an incredibly unstable time. On the one hand, you have this explosion of productivity in music, in visual arts, in literature. Psychoanalysis was being born during this period. But this creativity and liberation, while very joyful, was also very dangerous, perfect ground for the far right to seize power. Fascism was seen as a solution for a lot of problems, and indeed it was. Angelo's regime is also a kind of solution to a problem."

Munby's production, which heavily features music and dance, also asks what part religion and politics play in our lives and where people stand in relation to the two.

"The central axis of this play," Munby contends, "is human sexuality in conflict with the stricture of law and religion. I think this play is about the birth of sexuality, in fact. Sex informs every scene and almost every character. But it opens onto a much wider dialogue: What is acceptable in society? How do we govern our own sexuality, which can be so at odds with our humanity? What is the role of faith and religion in all of this? And at the end of the day, it feels like very human choices have been made to solve these human dilemmas. It's a play that transcends period and culture, I think."

Measure for Measure is sponsored by Michael R. Klein and Joan I. Fabry.

To purchase tickets or to learn more, patrons can call the box office at 202.547.1122 or visit