GVSU festival to honor 400 years of Shakespeare

23rd annual Shakespeare Festival features 'Measure for Measure'

By Carmen Smith | 9/18/16 11:02pm

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GVL / Courtesy - Amanda Pitts Ariana Martineau (right), and Liam Purtle (left) in Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure".

by Amanda Pitts / Grand Valley Lanthorn

Stories of sex, imprisonment and execution make their way to Grand Valley State University this fall to commemorate and celebrate Shakespeare and his life, intelligence and work in the 23rd annual Shakespeare Festival.

GVSU will host its biggest Shakespeare Festival yet this fall, as 2016 marks the 400th year since Shakespeare’s death. Festivities are set to begin with the play "Measure for Measure" Friday, Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m. in the Louis Armstrong Theatre in the Performing Arts Center on the Allendale Campus.

The story is one of Shakespeare’s darker comedies about a society in a state of moral turmoil. Put together with a cast of student performers and professionals, it questions what is good behavior and proper morality, and challenges the abuse of powers with a storyline that is easy for audience members to relate to.

“I feel like the audience can connect the themes of this play to current events today,” said Amber Miller, a GVSU senior playing the role of Isabella in "Measure for Measure." “The abuse of power by those with authority, the juxtaposition of religion against society, these are just a few themes that I feel can still relate to people today.”

When people think of Shakespeare, they often think of incomprehensible language and Renaissance dress. This show will much easier to understand with contemporary dress and settings, giving it a modern twist that reaches out to a younger audience.

“I hope the audience recognizes the contemporaneity of the play’s issues,” said Roger Ellis, director of "Measure for Measure." “We’re doing the show in modern dress to emphasize this. The role of outspoken women advocates of social justice, the need for more civic responsibility and resistance to public corruption, the role of religion in a church and state society, how should we temper justice with mercy—these are all critical issues today, just as they were in Shakespeare’s time.”

Along with "Measure for Measure," there will be many different attractions for festival participants including: a traveling show of people in traditional Renaissance dress, a conference with well-known, feminist Shakespeare scholar, Phyllis Rackin, an open discussion with a panel to discuss moral dilemmas, student competitions for art, music and writing with a chance to win a cash prize and other opportunities for students to win prizes within the Shakespeare Festival.

“The best part of the festival is that the productions and the events serve as a way to bring a wide range of people from many different places together and enjoy what this festival generates,” said James Bell, Shakespeare Festival director.

"Measure for Measure" tickets are available to purchase for $14 for adults, $12 for GVSU faculty, staff and alumni, $12 for seniors and $6 for students at the Louis Armstrong Theatre in the Performing Arts Center on the Allendale Campus.

“Festival-goers can expect to see a show,” said Michael Pollock, GVSU senior playing the role of Angelo in "Measure for Measure." “If you see people in costumes reciting lines in an impressively organized fashion, you’ve probably stumbled upon the (traveling) show.”

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