Saturday, July 24, 2010

Best Use of Barbies Ever: Or "Measure for Measure" by 10-inch dolls

As preparation for the Stonington Opera House production of "Measure for Measure" -- as well as for the library reads in Brooksville, Brooklin, Stonington and Deer Isle -- I'm re-reading the play. But I've also been surfing the internet for more background information on ideas and productions. To me, this is one of the most complicated of Shakespeare's plays, and I confess that I find it problematic -- and not just because scholars consider it one of the Bard's "problem plays" (which is another way of saying the themes don't fit neatly into comedy, nor can the characters be easily categorized as heroes).

We'll dive into the fascinating background and themes of the play later with the help of a few outstanding scholars and directors.

In the meantime, I want to share a clever two-part YouTube version of "Measure for Measure" featuring Barbie dolls (and created as a project for a Shakespeare class). It's corny at first, seeing the dolls, but actually it serves as quite a good synopsis of the play. It strikes me that there are lots of imaginative ways to approach Shakespeare. My own preference is to enter the story through the text. Others, such as director Jeffrey Frace and the actors at the Stonington Opera House, prefer the platform of a stage. And still others like, well, dolls.

And not just Barbie dolls. Last year, when a boy I know saw the Stonington Opera House production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," he went home and re-enacted a segment of the play with an old set of toy horses we keep around the house for kids.

Turns out, Shakespeare has resonance in more than simply our thoughts. We are free to reinterpret his stories as imaginatively as we want -- with dolls, puppets, movies, poems, dances. I encourage you to watch the "Measure for Measure" Part 1 and Part 2 Barbie YouTube videos, and I think you'll also enjoy this 9-year-old boy's interpretation of last year's "Midsummer."

Of course, the next question is: How will you adapt Shakespeare to your own favorite storytelling technique?

Check out more information about the Opera House Arts production of "Measure for Measure" Aug. 19-29 at the Stonington Opera House.