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PARtake: The Journal of Performance as Research

Abstract

To what extent can a process of collaborative creation unseat Shakespeare as a source of cultural authority?

In February 2016, a group of professional performers gathered in an abandoned shop front in Exeter’s city centre to formally begin a devising process with Shakespeare and Middleton’s Measure for Measure that had been incubating in my mind for almost a year. Nearly a year later, in January 2017, an unrelated group of secondary school students began a similar process, with the same text.

What began as a persistent sense that these long-dead writers had omitted an important perspective in their play has evolved into Measure (Still) for Measure: a project blending Shakespeare, physical theatre, devising, and intersectional feminism. Its goals are threefold: to reorient the 400-year-old play around its female protagonist, Isabella; to facilitate difficult conversations about consent and rape culture; and to instigate policy change in educational institutions. It is not a coincidence that the school hosting the project’s pilot phase recently announced an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against one of its former teachers.

In this article, I attempt to write through the two project phases completed to date and, in the process, demonstrate methods for disrupting Shakespeare's authority.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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