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Measure for Measure

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Lynnea Benson
April 10, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Director.

What is your show about?
Something is rotten in Old Vienna--depravity is everywhere, and the handsome Duke Vincentio has just handed the kingdom over to Angelo, his priggish deputy. With power finally in his grasp, Angelo begins enforcing the old blue laws to the letter, including the death penalty for pre-marital sex! But Angelo is not at all the pure-hearted reformer he pretends to be. Dark secrets and shameful fantasies haunt his dreams. Will the Duke ever return to set things right? Will the brothels survive? And who is that new Friar in town? Starring Erick Gonzalez, Amy Frances Quint, Eric Doss, Vivien Landau and Marcus Watson as Pompey.

What type of theater do you like most to work on?
For me, it's all about showing audiences how fun and modern the people in Shakespeare's world can be. Aside from the dark fun house world of this particular play (which we set in a rather sleazy and promiscuous a mid 1920's Vienna), there are wonderful reminders that politicians have been corruptible for quite a long time, and that the question of enforcing morality has vexed people all through the ages.

Complete this sentence: My show is the only one opening in NYC this spring that...?
...that has a kinky, kick-up-your-heels chorus line of buttoned-downed officials and Mistress Overdone's girls. ...that has a beautiful original song with music composed by Ian McDonald of King Crimson. ...that is laugh out loud funny with a knock-out cast. New York's best Shakespearean actors come to work at Frog & Peach. Why? Because we know how to tell a story in a thrilling fast-paced way that's hilarious and true to the text.

Do you think the audience will talk about your show for 5 minutes, an hour, or way into the wee hours of the night?
I'm really hoping to turn people on to this play, because it's not read often in schools and I think that's a shame. It is a beautifully written, very dirty comedy, but Measure for Measure also confronts a very modern danger: people who KNOW they are right. Those are the guys I worry about--the Sure Guys.

Which famous person would you most like to get a fan letter from: Denzel Washington, Maggie Smith, Ang Lee, Jennifer Lawrence?
I wouldn't say fan letter, but wouldn't it be something to have coffee with Maggie Smith? What a woman! I wish every actor would watch how she listens when she works.

If you had ten million dollars that you had to spend on theatrical endeavors, how would you use the money?
First, I'd put a bit aside for a rainy day! We'd had a long and very happy residency at our beloved West-Park Church, but structural problems there sent us searching for a new home. It took a great deal of effort to re-establish ourselves at our current venue, The West End Theatre, 263 W 86th St. In the fall of 2008 we premiered in our new home with Richard III, starring Anatol Yusef. It was a gorgeous show, but the economy went into free fall like the day before we opened. The whole world was freaking out. I'm proud we stayed the course, while so many other companies closed up forever. It's been exciting, kind of like parachuting blindfolded into a volcano--not for the faint of heart. Audience members who'd once routinely made good sized donations twice a year were sending really heart-breaking notes of regret; funders who committed couldn't always come through. Our ensemble members, though, are the toughest, most brilliant people I know. I'd give our genius designers the budgets they deserve, cocoon our actors in silk, and reward them all with their hearts desires--within reason. You have to say that when you're also a producer. Seriously, once you've seen a Frog & Peach production, you'll understand why I feel this way. These gifted artists would walk through fire to give our audiences a terrific show, and make it look like it's the most fun they ever had. Watching them makes you happy to be alive.