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The English Department of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is bringing the Actors from the London Stage back to the Triangle Sept. 25-27 to perform Measure for Measure at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, NC. Area theatergoers are in for a rare treat as these five classically trained veteran Shakespearean actors — who perfected their craft while performing at the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain, with the Royal Shakespeare Company, at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and at other prominent London venues — perform the full text of this sublime "dark" comedy by Elizabethan dramatist William Shakespeare (1564-1616). The AFTLS perform without a director and employ minimal costumes, props, and lighting.
Former AFTLS participants now performing with the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain and the Royal Shakespeare Company include: David Acton, Simon Day, Caroline Faber, David Rintoul, Michael Thomas, and Lucy Tregear.
Based on the two-part drama Promos and Cassandra (1578) by English dramatist and poet George Whetstone (1544-87) and the mixed tragedy Epitia (1583) by Italian playwright Giambattista Giraldi (a.k.a. Cinthio, 1504-73) and first performed in 1604-05, Measure for Measure "examines the nature of mercy and justice, proposing that a good government is one that is flexible and based on common sense," according to the Encyclopædia Britannica.
The Actors from the London Stage, now based at the University of Notre Dame in Southbend, Indiana, started in 1976 as an outreach program of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The co-founders of ACTER (A Center for Theatre, Education & Research) and its primary project, the Actors from the London Stage, included University of California-Santa Barbara Professor Homer "Murph" Swander, RSC director Trevor Nunn, and British actor Patrick Stewart. Since then, the AFTLS have brought their unique program of education and performance to approximately 150 college and university campuses.
According to a spokesperson for the University of Texas at Austin, which the troupe previously visited in 1979, 1983, 1999, and 2000,"The London actors explore the relationship of page and stage, language and meaning: 'rehearsing' students in scenes from Shakespeare and other playwrights, helping them to examine the many ways scenes can be understood and performed, leading them in analyzing and speaking verse, teaching them about metrical stresses and rhythm, cues, blocking, stage breathing, and the like. The actors work with English and drama majors; students in foreign languages, communications, speech, music, history, classics, psychology; as well as with high schoolers and members of the community. Their one-actor shows have been performed in residence halls and retirement communities, in auditoria and open areas, in coffee houses and student unions."
Originally based at UC-Santa Barbara and then based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1994 to 2000, the Actors from the London Stage will perform Measure for Measure as the culmination of a week-long residency sponsored by the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of English.
UNC's Cynthia Dessen warns that this year's visit of the AFTLS could be the last one for a while — unless the English Department can identity sufficient sources of funding to bring the troupe back.
"I ran the program from 1994 to 2000 here at UNC," says Dessen. "We need a minimum of $20,000-$25,000 every other year to bring the troupe to the area for a week of educational residency work at a college, university, or performing arts center and three performances of the tour play that year. Any suggestions for an angel, a volunteer marketer or fund raiser (experience in these fields most helpful), or a performing arts program or school with money, should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org."
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill English Department presents the Actors from the London Stage's production of Measure for Measure Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 25-27, at 8 p.m. at The ArtsCenter, 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro, North Carolina. $12 ($10 students and ArtsCenter Friends). 919/929-2787. The ArtsCenter: http://www.artscenterlive.org/. Actors from the London Stage: http://www.nd.edu/~aftls/.