About a year ago, Genesius Guild members J.C. Luxton and Cait Woolley had an idea: to bring Shakespearean theatre to a more intimate space than the outdoor Lincoln Park venue in which the Guild performs every summer.
Now their idea has evolved into reality as a group of nine actors called the Prenzie Players will produce Measure for Measure at the Peanut Gallery (located on the corner of Third Avenue and 21st Street in Rock Island) on March 21 and 22.
Luxton, the director of the show, says the goal of Measure is to "combine the seriousness of the Genesius Guild with the zaniness of Comedy Sportz." The end result, he hopes, will be a high-energy show that's fun for audiences to experience - and fun for many reasons.
When casting Shakespeare's comedy, Luxton decided to give multiple parts to his dedicated actors. "We have one woman playing five parts," he said. "It will be fun for the audience to see her changing from the executioner to the main love interest and then to the friar. We also gave male parts to females and vice-versa, because it's just more fun that way."
The play deals with the effects of the overzealous enforcement of laws when the Duke of Vienna takes a sabbatical and puts his upright deputy in his place. A man who impregnated his fiancée is sentenced to death, and much of the plot deals with the efforts to free him.
Because the Prenzie Players don't have much of a budget yet, costuming, lighting, set design, and props will be minimal. Luxton said actors will wear some form of black, depending on character, and that class distinction will be subtle. "Everything will be minimized to draw attention to the actors. This production is entirely actor-driven - they move the props and arrange the set. The action will be right there, in front of the audience."
Audiences will also help determine the future of the Prenzie Players. Though Woolley anticipates more performances of Shakespearean works, Luxton is waiting hopefully for the community response to Measure for Measure.
Though the play will be presented with "high energy," Luxton has stayed mostly true to the original text and complex language in Shakespeare's work, making only a few changes, such as merging two minor characters into one. And the director says he chose Measure for Measure because it is one of Shakespeare's lesser-known comedies and often under-appreciated.
The Prenzie Players have a good chance to present an exciting, in-your-face version of Measure for Measure that the Quad Cities rarely has the opportunity to experience.
Shakespeare's Measure for Measure will be presented at the Peanut Gallery, 300 21st Street in Rock Island on March 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. Admission is $5. The gallery will also be displaying works by Steve Banks.