CHARLESTOWN — When all the world’s a stage, it seems only fitting to bring the show on the road.
That’s why the Brown Box Theatre Project, a traveling theater troupe, is coming to Charlestown to perform William Shakespeare’s play “Measure for Measure” at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7, in Avalon Park at the corner of Louisa Lane and Water Street. The free event is just one of many stops that Brown Box is making from Aug. 29 to Sept. 21 across the Delmarva region.
Since founding the company in 2009, Executive Artistic Director Kyler Taustin has strived to expand access to theater for communities where stage performances may not always be within reach.
“In order to break down those financial and geographic barriers that separate people from live professional performing arts, we work to keep tickets free or below $20 and we try to go into the backyards of as many communities as we can in order to increase access,” he said.
The show in Charlestown will also be part of he first season of performances at Avalon Park since the town built a new stage there last year. This summer, the park has hosted musical performances, and Brown Box's performance will be a culmination to a great season, according to Patricia Clements, a Charlestown commissioner.
Taustin said Shakespeare is a well-known voice, but while people in his hometown of Berlin, Md., recognized the Bard’s works from literature they had read or discussed in school, most had not seen any of his plays actually performed.
“I truly believe seeing and hearing Shakespeare live is the way it’s meant to be accessed,” Taustin said.
So, in addition to musicals and contemporary plays, Brown Box also performs one Shakespearean play each year, according to Taustin.
In “Measure for Measure,” the play follows a young woman named Isabella (played by Sarah Boess) whose brother is expected to be executed for impregnating his fiance before their marriage. Isabella goes to Angelo (played by Spencer Parli Tew), deputy to the Duke of Vienna who is entrusted to govern in the Duke’s absence, and pleads for him to pardon her brother. Instead, Angelo says he will spare the life of Isabella’s brother only if she has sex with him.
Taustin said Brown Box selected “Measure for Measure” because of the timeless themes and messages it conveys.
“This play is over 400 years old and yet still talking about issues that we are dealing with today when it comes to abuse of power, when it comes to looking at how gender plays a role in the workplace and society in general, and to analyze the best course of action moving forward,” he said. “Hopefully, this play serves as a catalyst for conversation regarding some of these topics.”
Taustin added that theater and other forms of artistic expression can introduce people to new perspectives and spark conversations around important topics and issues.
“I am a firm believer that the arts are a great use of conversation and a great way to share the stories of the people that may not be right next to you, to learn about and have empathy for the stories and experiences of people different from yourself,” he said.
Since the play does explore mature themes, Taustin acknowledged that the performance may not be suitable for audiences of all ages. But he also said the event could be a good conversation starter about topics like consent for young adults, and that attendance is ultimately up to parents’ discretion.
Performances on this tour will be free, but Taustin said audience members may choose to donate to Brown Box either through www.brownboxtheatre.org or through voluntary collections the day of the show.
“Every dollar we do receive through our website, through our Venmo (mobile payment app), through the cash donations on the day, goes directly back to continuing to bring free and affordable theater to the communities that we are serving,” he said.