Leigh Silverman directs the world premiere of Tanya Barfield's Of Equal Measure, set during Woodrow Wilson's presidency.
"When Tanya first started telling me all the history -- and no one does as much research as she does -- my eyes started to glaze over," says Silverman. "But ultimately, the play has so many resonances to today -- from little things like how Wilson made all restaurants replace the word 'sauerkraut' with 'Liberty Cabbage' to the larger point of how one administration can simply set a cause like the civil rights movement back 25 years. But we haven't made these comparisons pointed; we want people to hear them and just absorb them."
While Silverman has directed plays set in many time periods -- ranging from the 1950s to the present-day -- Of Equal Measure presented her with a distinct set of challenges. "First, just trying to convince the men in the cast to wear three-piece wool suits in the middle of summer in L.A. was not easy," she says. "But we had lots of challenges, like trying to learn how people of different races related physically back then. Our dramaturg read lots of plays from that period to see if handshakes were common; they were, but not between races. Instead, there's a lot of hat tipping going on. Or trying to find authentic movie seats from this period on short notice, when Tanya changed a scene from a cafe to a theater."