Measure for Measure
Measure for Measure - A Certain Time and Place in the Early 70s
Throughout its production history, directors have changed the setting of William Shakespeare’s "Measure for Measure" to speak to the particular moment in which it is produced. There's Sean Holmes’ production with the Royal Shakespeare Company set in post-war Vienna, Gregory Doran’s production set in 1900s Vienna, and the recent production at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, directed by Henry Godinez, set in 1950s Cuba. Like most of Shakespeare’s works, directors find his texts malleable enough to support changes in locales and time periods, albeit sometimes with mixed success. In recent years, Measure for Measure has been called Shakespeare’s “me too” play, and while it certainly tells Isabella’s #metoo story, the play speaks more broadly to concerns about government regulation and intrusion in the private sphere and asks weighty questions about authority, justice, and forgiveness. As such, especially considering recent legislation in Idaho, the play is increasingly relevant here in Moscow, Idaho, today.
In our early conversations, director Kate Powers shared with me that she doesn’t typically change the time period and location so radically or specifically when directing Shakespeare but she felt that a very specific anchor in time and place would be critical for bringing Measure for Measure’s themes to the audience. After much research and discussion, Kate and I landed on the summer of 1972 in an unspecified American city.
What's Happening in 1972?
Why 1972? While not a year that stands out as historically, and internationally, significant as 1968, 1972 appealed to Kate because it was the decrescendo of the free-loving 1960s and after the protests against the US involvement in the Vietnam war had largely succeeded in sending the message that Americans were becoming less supportive of the war overall. In a sense, while 1972’s historic significance is not as well-known, many things occurred that would change the face of the United States in its government and populace.
In 1972, the famous Watergate break-in took place, access to reproductive health care was on the docket at the Supreme Court, and the country was continuing to lose faith in its government. A year earlier, in June 1971, then President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs: “America’s public enemy number one, in the United States, is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it was necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.” Nixon’s “all-out offensive” is reminiscent of the Duke’s desire to reestablish control over his Ferrara.
Combating discrimination on the basis of sex was also part of the nation’s discourse during this period. Title IX, part of the Education Amendments of 1972, protected women and other gender minorities from discrimination in programs that receive federal funding. This also was meant to protect against sexual harassment for both students and employees of institutions receiving federal funding. After celebrating 50 years of Title IX last year, it is clear that the fight against discrimination based on sex and gender is far from over.
Turning to the past helps us to see the present with more clarity and forge a path ahead where we might all be a little more free and be surrounded by a restorative, rather than destructive, justice.
Measure for Measure
- By William Shakespeare
- Adapted and directed by Kate Powers
- View program
Show times and Dates
- 7:30 p.m. April 28, 29, May 5, 6
- 2:00 p.m. April 30, May 7
- Hartung Theater, 625 Stadium Drive, Moscow
- U of I student tickets are FREE here.
- $8 for youth 18 and younger
- $15 for U of I employees and seniors (55+)
- $20 for general public
- Purchase tickets here.