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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

“Taking Measure” Takes a Look at Shakespeare and the #MeToo Movement

By Jonah Grinkewitz

"What's past is prologue," quoth Antonio in Shakespeare's "The Tempest."

That's a poetic way of saying, "history is bound to repeat itself."

It's something writer and director Chris Hanna thought about when examining another one of the famous bard's plays: "Measure for Measure."

When the #MeToo movement began, Hanna, a professor and director of theatre at ODU, saw a parallel between the sexual misconduct presented in the play and the issues coming to the forefront in modern times.

"What's interesting is the conversation and the power structures really have not changed in those 400 years," Hanna said.

In "Taking Measure," Hanna uses Shakespeare's play to examine the complexities of the #MeToo movement.

The adapted play also turns a critical eye on the famous playwright.

"Shakespeare is very problematic," Hanna said. "And he has somehow been considered above the conversation, which in a way I think belittles him because he is worthy of the conversation."

Likely written around 1604, "Measure for Measure" details how Lord Angelo, a man with considerable power, abuses his authority in an attempt to coerce a young woman named Isabella into sleeping with him. After imprisoning her brother and sentencing him to death, Lord Angelo offers to free him in exchange for the sexual act.

In "Taking Measure," a female student navigates similar dynamics at her university. When her relationship with her popular English professor turns sexual, she questions her devotion to the professor and his subject matter.

Produced by ODURep, the cast consists of more than a dozen ODU students from various gender and racial backgrounds playing both contemporary and Shakespearean characters.

"No matter what our color or gender is, our voice should be heard," said Mya Correa, who plays the lead role of the student.

To get into the role, Correa said she drew on her fears of speaking up about issues she has faced.

"I connect with her in the way that, at first, you want to show people that things didn't really affect you when they actually did," she said.

Correa said she hopes people who attend the play will gain a better understanding that anyone can end up in this predicament and that they are not alone - a sentiment shared by her director.

"Since the #MeToo movement started, the conversation has become much more nuanced," Hanna said. "What we define as harassment is not just what happens in the office of a Hollywood producer."

"Taking Measure" runs from Feb. 17 to 27 at ODU's Goode Theater. Ticket and parking information and a full list of performances can be found here.

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