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Shakespeare Bash’d Takes on Measure for Measure| Shakespeare in Toronto

By April 25, 2018 No Comments

This is part of an ongoing series of regional Shakespeare coverage. It’s Tori here with the latest in Shakespeare news from Toronto.
Shakespeare Bash’d closes out their sold-out season with Measure for Measure at the Junction City Music Hall from May 1-6. Directed by Assistant Associate Artistic Director, Catherine Rainville, it promises to be a female perspective on a story of sexual politics, consent, power, and corruption that is all too relevant today. I had the chance to chat with Catherine Rainville, Sochi Fried, who plays Isabella, and Melanie Leon, who plays Mariana, and asked them their thoughts about what is sure to be another Bash’d show.

Measure for Measure has been a popular play in the past few years, why do you think this is and what parallels do you see between the play and our current society?

Catherine: Over the past few years, we have seen a huge shift in the way that we talk about gender, autonomy, race, finical status, mental illness, powerful positions, and the law. This play holds all of these issues and touches on them either through out or subtly through different character’s opinions. It was written as a reflection of a culture and it still does that today. I think there are still a lot of unanswered questions about how we approach these issues and there is still a lot of work to do.

You all say in the press release that it is important to bring a female perspective to the direction of this play. Why do you think this is?

For me, this play is about women at its core. Isabella is put in a no-win situation and this is something that every single woman has experienced in her lifetime and it is what our societal view of women pivots on. In the moment of her choice, each audience member will view her differently, and that view directly reflects that audience member’s overall opinion of women.

What do you want audiences to know before they come to the show? What do you want them to take away?

I hope they come with an open mind. They don’t really need to know anything before they arrive. I’m very excited about the conversations this show will spark in the audience. Measure is one of the most ambiguous of Shakespeare’s work, all the way through, especially at the end, and that really challenges audiences to reflect on themselves. What do they think the right answer would be? Or the better choice? This show highlights the grey areas of topics I often wish were black and white – that would make them easier to navigate, but in sitting in the harder questions, we may find better answers over time.
One thing that I have been really struggling with through this process is the question of forgiveness – how do we come to that? Can we? Should we?
As well as, what happens to people in a culture that protects and encourages their abusiveness. What happens to them when, or if, they see what they’ve become?

What are you most excited about?

The conversations to be had!

What are you the most nervous about?

The conversations to be had!

Measure for Measure has been a popular play in the past few years, why do you think this is and what parallels do you see between the play and our current society?

Sochi: We, as a society, still struggle with how to deal with injustice in our world. We’re still obsessed with sex and power, and the corruption of both. It is shockingly of the moment.

What are you most excited about?

I am most excited to see how this 414-year-old play about sex, justice, mercy, and the abuse of power lands on a contemporary audience who will have #metoo, Jian Ghomeshi, and Albert Schultz all swirling around in their minds as they watch.

What are you the most nervous about?

One of the biggest differences between Isabella and myself is that Isabella is deeply religious and I am deeply secular. So, I think I am most nervous about authentically embodying a person who lives and breathes Christianity.

Sochi Fried as Isabella.  Photo by Kyle Purcell

Sochi Fried as Isabella.
Photo by Kyle Purcell

What has been your process of getting into character? Do you see any of Isabella in you?

I have been reading and watching documentaries about nuns. I spent a weekend in a convent here in town (St. John the Divine’s). I do see aspects of Isabella in myself — there is a way in which Isabella’s maturity has been arrested, which I feel increasingly is what has happened to me, and I agree with her arguments for mercy and compassion. I relate to her fear. She is on a quest for meaning and purpose, as am I. However, I long for her conviction, her dedication, her bravery. Also, she really submits to authority in a way that would drive me crazy.

Measure for Measure has been a popular play in the past few years, why do you think this is and what parallels do you see between the play and our current society?

It’s just really sad that this play is still relevant, isn’t it? I think particularly with all the stirrings of the #metoo movement and even the recent outings of unacceptable behaviour in our own local theatre community, Measure for Measure almost becomes unbearable to watch at times because moments of it are a play by play of what women experience on a daily basis.

What are you most excited about?

The humour in the play! This is what makes this play kind of special, despite it having some very tricky problems that need to be solved. We get a taste of the bawdy life and I’m so excited for people to see the talents of Lesley, Tim, and Cara in a room together. Holy bananas, I’m in stitches every time.

What are you the most nervous about?

Singing in front of people. Not a forte of mine, but oddly becoming something I’m having to do more often.

What has been your process of getting into character?

I see lots of parallels between myself and Mariana actually, which I think has made the process of shaping her both inspiring and frustrating. Inspiring because despite what people may say or think, she refuses to believe that Angelo can’t come back from this corruption. She loves him dearly, despite his faults, and whether audiences choose to accept that or even understand it, that ability to love without judgement is powerful. And I think we get to see a taste of this power in the final act.
On the other hand, this role has been frustrating for me. The feminist in me is battling with Mariana, wanting to be with such a faulted person like Angelo and I catch myself judging her for the very thing that I myself have fallen victim to over and over again; we can’t help who we fall in love with.
And for better or for worse, despite knowing “better,” despite having healed, I’m not sure that we ever really stop loving those people.

This is your first time working with BASH’d, what has the experience been like?

Awesome. I got to work with James Wallis on Hart House’s Titus, so I got a small taste of what this process would be like; Shakespeare with special attention on clarity, intention, and pace. Shakespeare is already so juicy and often the stakes are already SO high, that it doesn’t need much more than those three things.
Also, this is one of the most talented casts I have ever had the pleasure to be a part of, so it’s been just swell.

Thanks for your responses!

Measure for Measure is at Junction City Music Hall May 1-6.
Showtimes: Tickets:
Tuesday, May 1 – 7:30pm $20 online at www.shakespearebashd.com
Wednesday, May 2 – 7:30pm $25 at the door
Thursday, May 3 – 7:30pm
Friday, May 4 – 7:30pm
Saturday, May 5 – 2:00pm
Saturday, May 5 – 7:30pm
Sunday, May 6 – 2:00pm

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Author Tori Carlisle

Toronto Regional Editor. Tori is a current Graduate Student at York University.

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