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Monday, May 27, 2024
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UF actors put a modern twist on a Shakespeare classic

<p>Second-year master of fine arts student Laine Evans Nelson, 23, rehearses for Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure.” Performances will be in the Nadine McGuire Black Box Theatre.</p>

Second-year master of fine arts student Laine Evans Nelson, 23, rehearses for Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure.” Performances will be in the Nadine McGuire Black Box Theatre.

When Stephen Ruffin first sat down to memorize William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” script, he was lost.

In order to interpret his role as Claudio in the UF School of Theatre + Dance’s upcoming reinterpretation of the 17th-century work, he translated the dialogue into modern English.

“I need to know what the word means because I obviously want to be able to portray it in a way the audience can understand,” the 20-year-old acting junior said. “I got to look at a script like I’ve never looked at it before.”

In a move meant to attract more viewers, director and theatre professor Ralf Remshardt decided in April to drop the 1603 play into the 1960s — with a “Mad Men” twist. Actors in the play, which will run from Friday to Sept. 23 at the Nadine McGuire Black Box Theatre, will perform Shakespeare’s original script. Tickets are $13 for students and $17 for the general public.

Remshardt said he wanted the audience to be able to relate easily.

“There is no traditional Shakespearean way; if it were, we would all be men acting outside in the middle of the afternoon,” he said. “I want students not only to come willingly but to realize why Shakespeare is the most famous playwright.”

The set design was inspired by 1960s advertisements and features era-inspired props like billboards. The reinvented play features characters in the corporate world in a big city similar to New York, Remshardt said.

In the original play, a man’s girlfriend gets pregnant, which at the time was an offense punishable by death. In an ironic twist, the deputy who sentenced the man tries to seduce the girlfriend.

Ruffin, who plays Claudio, said the 1960s theme helped much of the cast adapt to the play’s challenging language and style.

“Adapting the time period a little closer to now acted as a bridge for me,” he said.

Remshardt said the original play fits well into a “transitional phase” like the 1960s.

Remshardt said the cast will be performing the original script but with a comical tinge.

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“It’s often not played comically, so I think the audience will enjoy that,” he said. “But the audience always has to play the game to have fun.”

Second-year master of fine arts student Laine Evans Nelson, 23, rehearses for Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure.” Performances will be in the Nadine McGuire Black Box Theatre.

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