Give Him A Hand

Start your weekend with an interview with Will Hand, who plays the lead role of Duke Vincentio in this month’s production of Measure For Measure, opening this Tuesday at the Cafe Royale.

Will Hand didn’t provide a headshot, so we’re going with this.

So this is your first Theater Pub, right? What’s got you excited about joining the ranks of Theater Pub’s ever expanding ensemble?

I think its a sweet thing, theater in a bar. But really, while everyone knows the San Francisco Bay Area theater scene is close-knit, sometimes those threads are a little loose. Anything that works to bring us together as a community is a pretty exciting thing to be a part of.

The annual Shakespeare production is becoming a tradition, basically because we will now have done it twice. What do you think is the bee’s knees about doing Shakespeare in a bar?

Well its actually something I’ve always wanted to do. That possibility of a rowdy, raucous audience is so infinitely more desirable for me than the complacent regional theater crowd.  An opportunity to do some Shakespeare, to make it compelling, make it count, and basically do what it takes to get a room full of people interested in the imaginary event happening in the room, is my definition of doing Shakespeare right.

Anything got you worried? Is this your first time doing a show like this?

Well sure. The Duke’s a selfish young man who loves doing good. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time exploring that incongruity.  He is a very complex character, but in a very unexpected way. I want to do right by all that. Now, towards the end of the process, I’m finding the time to focus on more fundamental moment-to-moment work, but in a such a rough, informal rehearsal and performance process I think you always worry if you’ll pull it together in time, and if any of it will translate when it comes down to you running around the bar dressed as a monk.

Speaking of who you play, tell us more about the Duke.

I play Vincentio, the good Duke of Vienna. Everyone has that friend who’s always asking how your relationships are going, who is essentially a bit of a meddler. The Duke is like what would happen if that friend had a kingdom over which he had essentially Godlike authority.

And how is your first Theater Pub experience going?

Its been really great working with the rest of the cast. I did some scene studies from Measure for Measure in college,  and I had no idea what to do with the Duke. Since day one, though, I’ve been really grateful for a cast that offers up so many and such bold choices for us all to play with; every rehearsal has been an explosion of new Duke flavors. Stuart’s also a master of bookwork, which meant that we really hit the ground sprinting.

Measure for Measure is an unusual choice for any theater venue. Why do you think this play is a challenge, good or bad, for any theater company?

We’ve talked a lot in rehearsal about how, invariably, this play is used as a launch-pad for ideological expression. I remember what Stuart Bousel said in one of the early rehearsals, “Everyone wants all of Shakespeare’s comedies to be Midsummer.” Fact is, some of the dude’s plays are about couples who’re just trying to make it work. You’re going to see a lot of hurt feelings before the night is over. Life’s not all cherries, and foursomes in the forest. Sometimes its a sex-comedy between a Nun and a Prince dressed up like a Friar, and you just gotta learn to deal with it.

What do you hope the audience will get from Measure?

I hope they grapple with the capacity for forgiveness demonstrated in the play.

What’s your favorite beer?

Brother Thelonius Ale. Part of the profits go to the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz. You can get pie-eyed and be charitable, all on the same tab. How cool is that?

So if they do get a liquor license at the Cafe Royale, what’s the first cocktail you plan to order at Theater Pub?

Love’s Labour’s Lemondrop. Two Gin…tle…men of Verona?

Don’t miss Theater Pub’s Measure for Measure, playing four nights at the Cafe Royale (August 14, 20, 21, 27) and one night at the Plough And Stars (August 22), always at 8 PM, always for free.