Actors from the London stage take to Stansbury

Jennifer Burns

Convents, temporary leadership, sex before marriage, and family loyalties are about to be tested on the Lawrence stage. Next week everyone has the opportunity to see one of Shakespeare’s less known plays, Measure for Measure. Written in roughly 1604, Measure was written right before a long line of some of Shakespeare’s better known works, such as Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth.

Actors from the London Stage, a London-based theater group otherwise known as ACTER, are responsible for bringing Measure for Measure to campus. The group has long been a staple in Freshman Studies curriculum. Every year the troupe sends out two tours, one in the fall and one in the spring, each with a different play.

In addition to their annual stop at Lawrence, ACTER tours all around the country, stopping at many schools to perform, teach classes, and conduct various workshops.

Started in the late 1970s, the group originated in London. They got their break after a performance at a university in California, where they were asked to speak to students about Shakespeare and the acting craft.

One of the original members and a current producer of the group is Patrick Stewart, who was discovered while on tour and went on to a starring roll in Star Trek. Although in the past several North American schools have served as bases for the troupe, in 2000, the University of Notre Dame became ACTER’s current home base.

Challenging many of what audiences consider “conventional” ways of performing theatre, the ACTER group comprises only five actors, who split all the roles among themselves.

Many times, a single actor will be playing two characters at once and make the distinction between characters by changing a physical gesture or position, a costume accessory, or a prop.

For all productions the use of costumes, props, and furniture is minimal.

Not only will the actors be performing, but they will also be working with every Freshman Studies class on the text and language of the play. ACTER will be conducting workshops with various other classes as well.

For the Freshman Studies department, Measure for Measure is a perfect compliment to this term’s readings.

“This play is particularly well suited to follow Marx and Plato,” comments Timothy X. Troy, professor of theatre arts and one of many professors teaching Freshman Studies this term. “The themes are honesty, truth, justice, fairness, and both Marx and Plato address those issues in many ways, so [the Freshman Studies faculty] expect it to be fruitful.”

Measure for Measure opens Oct. 29 in Stansbury Theatre. It runs from the 29th through the 31st with shows beginning at 8 p.m. Tickets are free for Lawrence students and can be picked up at the box office in Brokaw Hall.