Measure for Measure Erika Haaland (Isabella) and Steve Wojtas (Angelo)
Costume sketch Angelo
Costume designs by Bill Black
Erika Haaland is new to the Festival. She’s recently been acting at many theatres in Chicago after completing her MFA at UC Irvine. Steve Wojtas is in his third season at the Festival. Last year he was Juror #5 in Twelve Angry Men and The Bastard in King John.
We recently discussed Measure for Measure and their characters.
What do you think is at the core of the play?
Erika: I think it’s about people who are incredibly conflicted. They’re thrown into these situations where they lose control or they expect things to be a certain way and they turn out completely differently. This is why I think they act so passionately and rashly. For Isabella, I think this play is about challenging every single one of her beliefs. There are no decisions that are easy for her. Isabella has a lot of doubts and makes rash decisions because she feels challenged.
What are your thoughts about Angelo? Do you think he’s inherently evil?
No, not at all. I didn’t know this play before I was cast, but the manner in which people spoke of Angelo always made him sound evil. On my first reading of the script, however, I found him incredibly flawed, yes, but also very conflicted. The soliloquies he has that allow us inside his thought process aren’t gloating like Iago from Othello. Instead, he says “Oh my God, what am I doing? I don’t know what I’m doing. I keep going back and forth between my prayers and my desires.” He’s the opposite of everyone else in this society. He’s repressed and compressed his feelings whereas everyone else drinks and openly has sex with whomever they like.
So when Angelo meets Isabella, they really connect because she is a kindred spirit. She too is looking for a more austere and severe way of life. But Angelo’s repression causes the opposite effect. Instead of keeping those feelings at bay, his strong feelings for Isabella push against those strict restraints until they burst.
Talk about the ambiguity in the play.
These characters are searching for something. If you don’t make them people then it becomes a “problem play.” It’s built on this gossamer structure. If you don’t build it piece by piece then the characters calcify and it becomes less interesting.
It’s great to work with such a wonderful ensemble. All the roles are difficult. I don’t think there’s a role in this play that’s black and white. It’s about real human beings going through this intense emotional time over the course of two days.
In other productions, people are focused on the Angelo/Isabella story. But for us it’s really a triangle that includes the Duke. It’s about the three of them and how they’re changing. That to me is what’s so fascinating. They are all going on a journey.
Why do you think the play is relevant for today’s audiences?
It’s so human. We’re dealing with these huge issues that might not feel relevant but are. It’s the struggle to find what’s right, to be true to yourself, to be true to the confines of the society that you’re forced to be in and that’s always relevant.
The conversation between what’s prohibited and what’s permitted is still relevant. It’s absolutely a conversation we’re still having.
Measure for Measure opens in preview on June 24 and runs through August 29. You can purchase tickets online at www.bard.org or by calling 800-PLAYTIX.
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Costume sketch Isabella
Costume designs by Bill Black