In Noah Haidle’s Smokefall, three generations of a family navigate everyday Midwestern life. In Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, a once great city is mired in economic and moral decay. Though written 400 years apart, both of these ensemble-driven plays appeared on the Goodman stage in 2013, showcasing two of the Goodman’s major artistic priorities: developing and producing new plays, and reimagining classics. I am proud, eight years later, to present these works once again as part of our Encore series.
Smokefall, a poetic exploration of the power and delicacy of love, was developed as part of our New Stages festival before premiering in the Owen Theatre under the direction of Anne Kauffman. I was so awed and enthused by the play’s emotional depth and its effect on audiences that I made the rare decision to produce it again the following year in our larger Albert Theatre. Then, in early 2021, as I perused the Goodman’s archives in search of productions that best represent the theater, I felt drawn, again, to Smokefall’s haunting lyricism and universality and decided to make it available to audiences once more, this time digitally and on demand.
A few months before Smokefall’s 2013 premiere, I directed Measure for Measure, tackling a play that I had grappled with as a reader and viewer for decades. A blend of tragedy, low comedy, and moral ambiguity, the play is one of Shakespeare’s most controversial “problem plays,” deemed unseemly for generations for its blending of genres. But I admired Shakespeare’s early effort at tragicomedy and I noticed that the crime-ridden city depicted in the play bore a resemblance to a city closer to us in time and place: New York in the 1970s. By placing Shakespeare’s text in that setting, I aimed to create both tension and connection between Shakespeare’s time, the 1970s and 2013.
Playwrights, I believe, speak to us differently depending on our identities and the times in which we live—and now I invite you to experience these two productions through the lens of 2021.