Rustic Mechanicals to Stage Shakespeare’s ‘Measure for Measure’ at Towngate

The Rustic Mechanicals, West Virginia’s only professional Shakespeare troupe, bring their Truth is Truth tour of William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” to Oglebay Institute’s Towngate Theatre for a single performance at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 14.

Existing somewhere between comedy and tragedy, the story takes place in Virginia, which has become a hovel for brothels and promiscuous behavior. The Duke — reluctant to wield his power to clean up the city — leaves, transferring the responsibility to his deputy, Angelo. Angelo soon starts implementing harsh and radical changes. Young Claudio finds himself afoul of an ancient law when he gets his love Juliet pregnant. Angelo sentences him to death for his crime of fornicating out of wedlock. Claudio’s friend Lucio meets with Claudio’s sister Isabella and pleads with her to change Angelo’s mind. Thus begins a plot of intrigue and mistaken identity.

“At its core ‘Measure for Measure’ is a play about when women speak up, men in power don’t believe them,” said Jason A. Young, Vintage Theatre Company’s artistic director. “I feel like the time has come for us to tell this story.”

Founded by Celi Oliveto in the summer of 2014, Vintage Theatre Company’s The Rustic Mechanicals are the only troupe of actors in the state dedicated to touring the works of William Shakespeare and other classical playwrights.

The Mechanicals tour three shows annually focusing on making Shakespeare’s plays accessible to modern audiences by utilizing interesting production concepts, dynamic staging and extreme casting. Now in their sixth season, they have grown from a troupe of seven actors to this year boasting a roster of more than 40 West Virginia artists.

Sarah Smith headlines the production in the role of Isabella.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to play Isabella. It’s challenging to portray a character with such unwavering moral convictions,” said Smith. “I’m most excited to show Isabella’s wit, courage and fierce determination in the face of a world that finds her fragile.”

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Audiences will also see James Matthews as the Duke, Daniel Crowley as Angelo, Sean Marko as Claudio and Sarah Young as his fiancé Juliet. Justin Grow takes on the role of the foppish Lucio, while troupe newcomers Casey Johnson and Brandon Rose will be seen as the Provost and Escalus. Cassandra Noel Hackbart will play the clever bawd Mistress Overdone as well as Sister Francisca, while Jason A. Young portrays the bawd’s tapster Pompey. Kaici Lore will be seen as Mariana and a servant with Isaac Covey appearing as a Gentleman, Elbow, and Barnardine, and Joshua Brooks covering five roles: the Friar, Froth, an Officer, a Messenger and Abhorson.

“Measure of Measure” is directed by kb saine alongside associate director Celi Oliveto.

“I’ve been really impressed with Vintage’s growth in the past few years and have been looking forward to the time when I would be asked to direct for them,” said saine. “When Jason approached me about ‘Measure for Measure,’ I jumped at the chance to bring such a relevant story to stages all across West Virginia.”

For more information about The Truth is Truth tour of William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,” call 855-882-8588 or visit the trouple’s website.

“Touring Shakespeare is a 400-year-old-tradition,” said Young. “These troupe members understand the nobility of the work and the heritage that they are a part of. I fully expect this tour to be a labor of love for us all.”

Tickets for the April 14 performance are $10 and can be purchased at, by calling 304-242-7700 or at the door, if available.

Towngate’s box office opens one hour prior to the show. Guests can come early and view the latest exhibit in The Gallery at Towngate, featuring the work of photographer Gary Zearott and developed as part of Wheeling’s citywide 250 Celebration. Zearott specializes in aerial, panoramic and arts photography — capturing the architectural and natural beauty of Wheeling and the Upper Ohio Valley.