Bard in the park | Band of Brothers troupe will stage Shakespeare’s ‘Measure for Measure’

Bard in the park | Band of Brothers troupe will stage Shakespeare’s ‘Measure for Measure’

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – For a local theater company’s 33rd season, members will be serving up justice.

William Shakespeare’s comedy “Measure for Measure” will be staged by Band of Brothers Shakespeare Company at 7 p.m. Thursday through July 13 and July 17-20 in the main pavilion at Stackhouse Park in Westmont.

Laura Gordon, the show’s artistic director, said this is the first time the troupe will perform the dark comedy.

“I’m intrigued by the plot and the fact that nobody around here, that I know of, has ever done it,” she said. “It’s very contemporary in its themes of eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and some of the things that are currently happening in the political season with leadership and judgment.”

Gordon said staging “Measure for Measure” has been on her mind for a couple years.

“I had to do months of studying the text to get what I wanted from it,” she said. “I don’t think anybody completely gets it until it’s performed.”

The play centers around the fate of Claudio, who is arrested by Lord Angelo, the temporary leader of Vienna.

Angelo is left in charge by the Duke, who pretends to leave town, but instead dresses as a friar to observe the goings-on in his absence.

Angelo is strict, moralistic and unwavering in his decision-making, and he decides that there is too much freedom in Vienna and takes it upon himself to rid the city of brothels and unlawful activity.

Claudio is arrested for impregnating Juliet before they were married. Although they were engaged, Claudio is sentenced to death in order to serve as an example to the other Viennese citizens.

Isabella, Claudio’s sister, goes to Angelo to beg him for mercy. He refuses to relent, but propositions her, saying that if she agrees to sleep with him, then he will let Claudio live.

The story comes to a head when the Duke intervenes and a plan is set in motion that forces everyone to be honest.

“There’s a lot of comedic characters in between, so it’s fun,” Gordon said. “I’ve cut it down to an hour and 45 minutes from three and a half hours, so the play moves quickly.”

For the production, audiences are going to determine the ending and vote on two possible outcomes.

“The play is about judging people, and Shakespeare leaves you hanging as to what the ending is, so we’re going to let the audiences determine what the final outcome will be,” Gordon said. “It can be different each night, and it’ll be interesting to determine what each audience decides. Nobody has done this before, but we’re always looking for something fresh, new and exciting with audience participation.”

She said the show features a cast of mostly newer actors to the BOB stage.

“They are biting it, chewing it, enjoying it and making suggestions. That’s when you know it’s all going to work,” Gordon said.

Emma Elliott, who is making a return to the company after an eight-year absence, is portraying the role of Isabella.

“Isabella is a young nun and very ignorant to the world of men and can’t conceive that a man would use his power against her own interest,” the Johnstown resident said. “She goes to plead her brother’s case to someone she thinks will have an interest in the truth, morality and justice. Angelo says he might be able to do her a favor if she sleeps with him, so she’s shocked that the person who is supposed to be holding justice up would propose something so disgusting to her.”

Elliott said she’s been enthralled with Shakespeare’s work since she was a child.

“To me, there’s such romance and a magic to Shakespeare in the worlds he built,” she said. “Every time we go through the script, there’s things I didn’t hear the night before, and I see a new part of the story and a new path. Every time you hear more, learn more and have more questions, and I love that.”

Elliott said the hope is that audience members forget all of their troubles and enjoy the show.

“Leave it all at the top of the hill and surrender yourself to the magic and the words,” she said. “Even if you don’t always understand everything with Shakespeare, just let it go and open your mind, and you will have a magical night.”

Seasoned actor Don Evanisko, of Johns-town, is portraying the role of Angelo.

“The power goes to Angelo’s head and he gets confronted by his political views versus his urges toward this young woman, and he ultimately fails,” he said. “It’s always fun playing a villain, especially complicated villains, but as an actor, it can be difficult to play a character who engages in questionable things.

“Angelo comes off as a real lech, so it can be difficult to do that, but you work through it.”

Evanisko said Shakespeare’s stories are still relatable today.

“These plays are 400 years old and still being performed because they’ve never lost their relevance,” he said.

Evanisko said he hopes people will gain a greater appreciation for Shakespeare.

“You really have to see it and hear it live to appreciate it,” he said. “It’s not meant to read; it’s meant to be experienced. You have these great stories that are wrapped up in Shakespeare’s wonderful use of language and poetry, and it creates a great final product.”

Rounding out the cast of “Measure for Measure” are Christina Hostetler as Mistress Overdone; Ben Berkebile as Escalus; Koa Beam as Provost; Catier Cashaw as Claudio; Jennifer Giuffre as Mariana; Wally Lodolinski as Pompey; Ron Carnevali as Duke Vincentio; Larisa West as Juliet; Joe Daley as Elbow; and Amanda Fisher as Friar Francis.

Gordon said audiences will be treated to an evening of entertainment in the woods under the moon and stars.

“In that setting, come, relax and breathe and look up at the sky,” she said. “That same moon was in the sky when Shakespeare wrote this, and that is their moon for the night, so let it control your imagination. Shakespeare changes people, so let him do that with his language, which is so beyond the words and it’s all in the feelings.”

A free shuttle service will be available to transport guests from Westmont Hilltop Elementary School, 827 Diamond Blvd., to and from the play site.

St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church will serve Serbian cuisine for purchase.

Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets for seating.

A blanket area for the audience will be reserved.

Tickets, which are $15 for adults and $10 for students, seniors and military, are available at the gate and in advance online at

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