William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure already included themes and ideas relevant to modern day before Savannah Shakes got to it. When the popular local theater company—which places Shakespeare's shows in more modern environments and periods of time—decided to stage it, the show's parallels with issues of today became even more apparent.
Directed by Terresa Kizer, the show is set to open for a limited run at Savannah Repertory Theatre’s PLAYSHOP on June 13. Ahead of the performance, we spoke to Kizer and her son — assistant director and actor Jeremiah Kizer.
For those who aren’t familiar with what Savannah Shakes does, tell me what the company is all about.
Terresa: Well, Savannah Shakes was started by Chris Soucy and Sheila Lynne Bolda. Savannah had Shakespeare in the Park, and then it stopped and Shakespeare wasn’t being done in Savannah any longer. Chris and Sheila decided that this was really sad, so they started the Savannah Shakes theater company. They decided that they would set the shows in more modern times.
The very first show they did was The Taming of the Shrew, and it was set after World War II when the soldiers came back from war. And the women, who’d been working in the factories and everything, all of the sudden had to go back into the home. That was their first show — typically they do two shows a year. So now, with Measure for Measure, we’re up to present day.
What is this adaptation of Measure for Measure all about?
Terresa: Originally the play is set in Vienna, but we set it more in a Washington, D.C. type of setting. Really, it's almost creepy that this play that was written in 1604 deals with a lot of the issues that we're having today in our modern society. The largest theme of the show is power, and how absolute power can corrupt once you're given it. The Me Too movement comes into play as well.
There are tons of issues, not only with some bills that have been passed recently and how they affect individuals, but there’s also just a broad spectrum of society represented in this show.
It’s always really amazing how relevant some of Shakespeare’s themes are to modern day. What’s the process like of adapting these shows and putting something like Measure for Measure into the present day?
Terresa: I think, initially, that Sheila and Chris had laid out the shows they wanted to do. This was the show that they'd planned to do in the present day. So that really lends itself to Sheila and Chris.
Jeremiah: They always had some ideas about how this show could fit into a modern setting. The interesting thing is that with the political and social issues we are facing today, they somehow added more relevance to a show that had already been planned to put into a modern setting. This was already considered to be one of Shakespeare’s problem plays, because there are comedic moments - it was comedy, but kind of not.
With what’s going on in our society today, it’s given new context, relevance, and a new understanding. This play that may have been seen as a problem at one point now suddenly makes sense. Here it is, hundreds of years later, and the show is finally being seen in a new light.
What a great platform to address these issues in such an impactful way.
Terresa: I want people to come away from this show really thinking. Hopefully it opens up a conversation.