For the past few years Sweet Tea Shakespeare has worked to bring classic plays to life. Many of the group’s performances happen in the beautiful outdoors, capitalizing on sweet Southern evenings. Their minimalistic style embraces the natural beauties of Fayetteville and Shakespeare traditional style. “Shakespeare’s plays are meant to be performed on a blank stage. In his writing he uses something called spoken décor. In the writing he describes where the set is. It comes out in the writing,” Greg Fiebig the director of Measure for Measure explained. The play is set to take place July 21 and 24 at Museum of the Cape Fear’s Poe House.
Measure for Measure is the first Shakespearean work that Sweet Tea Shakespeare has produced this year. It is a unique work because it is neither a tragedy nor a comedy. Dark and serious themes are offset by comedic moments and characters.
“It is an interesting piece … the Duke of Vienna leaves his second in command in charge and comes back to the town as a friar to check and see how things are really going,” Fiebig said, comparing the piece to an episode of the television show Undercover Boss.
This play takes place outdoors on the grounds of the 1897 Poe House.
“There is an out building behind the Poe House that has a trellis covered in ivy. That is going to be our backdrop with a pallet stage in front,” Fiebig said. “We are going to encourage audience members to sit up close to the stage on all four sides. With the thrust-style stage, the audience can get very close to the stage where all the action is happening. Everyone should have a great view because they will all be within 10 yards of the actors and the action.”
Shakespeare’s works have the ability to stay relevant centuries after they were written. This is especially true in Measure for Measure. This relevancy allows both the cast and the audience to engage with the play in a significant way.
“It is interesting — especially with what is happening today. If you look at the national news and the media, there are things like shootings without due process and then there are the elections. Shakespeare’s work continues to be relevant to today. You look at the play and it is like someone ripped the headlines from today’s news,” Fiebig said.
This rendition of Measure for Measure includes audience participation.
“There is an unresolved marriage proposal and it is just glossed over. So we are going to stop after the proposal and ask the audience how they would like it to end,” Fiebig explained. “It is much funnier if she rejects the proposal rather than accepts it because if she rejects it, then the rejected person has to respond and it is hilarious.”
The text itself will remain regardless of the situation, but the answer will alter how the performers ‘play’ the scene. Audience members are encouraged to see the performance multiple times and change how they vote in order to see both endings.
General admission is $12. Performance dates are July 21 -24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Poe House. Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s house band The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers performs before every show. Find out more about the troupe and this season at www.sweetteashakespeare.com.