Name: Edward Houser, playing the Substitute Duke
Production: Measure for Measure
BS: Describe your costume as the Substitute Duke.
SD: I’m wearing a business suit — it’s what I wear to work every day as the Substitute Duke of Vienna. It’s a nice conservative look. It exudes masculine power while not being too flashy. I think it properly represents the dignity that my place deserves. I’m wearing a three-piece suit, black, and I’ve got a silver tie, which I believe is Italian. I’m wearing conservative black dress shoes and I’ve got a pocket watch inside the vest and a pocket square that matches the tie.
BS: Do you make any costume changes during the show?
SD: Yes, one of my scenes happens at very early dawn so I come out wearing a full-length leather coat with a big fur collar. It’s supposed to keep off the elements but really just to make me feel like a badass.
BS: In what time period is the show set?
SD: Shakespeare wrote the show to [take place] in Vienna, in presumably about his time. For our production concepts, we’re trying to go more film noir. And coupled with that, we wanted to have a place that felt almost tropical and a little decaying. It’s warm, it’s dirty, there’s a lot of vice that goes on in the play, so it’s a place where you can imagine all of that happening. It’s kind of an old Havana sort of setting. Most of the characters will wear super bright colors and stuff, but being the figure of authority, I choose to wear black.
BS: Where would the Substitute Duke shop today?
SD: Angelo [the Substitute Duke] would definitely shop at Brooks Brothers. He’s very, very conservative and classy.
BS: What are some of the challenges you face when you step into this role?
SD: As Substitute Duke, I’ve got to encompass this incredible sense of self-righteousness, which comes out of the fact that he considers himself the embodiment of the law. Then I’ve got to find a way to transform this very powerful experience of the passions rising in me and eventually basically taking control. I’d say establishing my moral character and then sweeping it away the very next instant is the hardest.
BS: How does putting on the costume help you fulfill the role?
SD: It’s just incredible. You realize through your everyday life that how you dress affects how you bear yourself, and you have a different mindset. It’s that phenomenon to a whole new level with acting. One, all of the costumes you wear are totally different from the costumes that I would wear as Ed. It immediately signals to your body that something different is happening. It’s also the feel of the clothing and the fact that when you glance in a mirror, you see yourself differently, it just defines that while you wear these clothes you really are this person.
BS: What does the UD community have to look forward to in this production, fashion-related or otherwise?
SD: I’d say that the clothes are all really great. It’s based on film noir, so you’ve got a lot of dark suits, fedoras. But then because we put it in Havana, a lot of the supporting characters have costumes that really just pop out at you, like guys in checked suits. So there’s a lot of contrast between the darkness and power in the government and the diversity of life out in the populace.
BS: What advice would the Substitute Duke have for the UD reader?
SD: I think he’d tell the women to dress very modestly. Lechery is far too common a vice. To the men, I think he’d say to keep it classy and don’t make a fool of yourself. I think in particular he would say that he finds nuns’ habits strangely attractive.
BS: What type of UD person would the Substitute Duke be?
SD: I would definitely be a spring Romer. To be honest, although it is now defunct and it was only for women, he would have fit in very well in Catherine, from what I hear. Very much the Puritan.