KIDS’ VOICE: Senator Raskin celebrates his birthday with Shakespeare and Lumina

Lumina Measure for Measure with Jamie Raskin

KIDS’ VOICE • BY MARY ELLEN KOENIG

Most of us are content with a birthday cake and a few presents for our birthday. But Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin (D-20) recently marked his 49th birthday by displaying his talents as an actor, playwright, and politician with a celebration of the Arts in Maryland through a collaboration with Lumina Studio Theatre in Silver Spring.

Raskin, a nationally recognized constitutional law expert as well as elected official, collaborated with Lumina’s Executive Director and playwright David Minton to adapt Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, setting the action in an unnamed Middle Eastern land overseen by Western powers.  The play, which ran at Round House Theatre in Silver Spring in early December, explored a wide range of compelling, contemporary issues, including women’s rights, corruption, and rule of law.

On Friday, December 9, a special performance of the production in Raskin’s honor played to a sold-out crowd of politicos and law specialists, including State Senators Jenny Forehand and Karen Montgomery, State Delegate Kathleen Dumais, County Councilman George Leventhal, AU law professors Ann Shalleck and Angela Davis, as well as Raskin’s wife, Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Raskin.

Lumina Measure for Measure with Jamie Raskin

State Senator Jamie Raskin co-adapted Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, highlighting the relevance of the play to contemporary issues, and writing in a bit part for himself. In this scene Raskin tries to convince the dictator’s effigy to register to vote. Photo by Angela J. Davis. Featured photo above article also by Angela J. Davis.

Raskin not only co-wrote the new adaptation of the play, he had several cameo roles and worked closely with Lumina’s young troupe of actors to explore the characters and the pressing moral questions raised through the script.  Following the special performance, Raskin, Minton, and six young actors talked with the audience about the play and Lumina’s politically relevant production.  Minton remarked that “Shakespeare is relevant to every time.  We do Shakespeare in different settings and time because it wakes us all up to what’s alive in us, in our age.”

One young actor, Clare Lefebure, talked about the experience of wearing a burka and how it constricted both her view and movements.  Lefebure played four very different female characters in the play, and Minton spoke about his and Raskin’s intentions in using a single actor in this fashion to show how women can be objectified.  Minton described the learning process that underscores all Lumina productions, specifically referencing the Measure for Measure discussions with the young actors that addressed issues about culture, faith, and the Middle Eastern setting.

Lumina performs Measure for Measure

Clare Lefebure experienced the confinement of a burkah in her role as the conflicted heroine of Measure for Measure. Photo by Angela J. Davis.

Raskin talked about the “joy to be with these extraordinary, precocious actors” who ranged in age from 8 to 17.  He said later that it was “fun to see what goes on in a Lumina production and to see the actors bring our vision to life.”  Raskin has been a strong supporter of Lumina Studio Theatre over the years after seeing his children benefit from the program, which introduces children and teenagers to the Bard’s work by working on large-scale productions of primarily classic theatre throughout the year.  Raskin believes that Lumina Studio Theatre’s work “is transformative and magnificent,” adding that “if you want to see what real education looks like, go watch a Lumina production and let the cast, the set, the costumes and choreography, stage combat, the music and the whole experience blow your mind.  This theatre company is a community treasure and is deserving of national attention and recognition.”  Raskin encouraged the audience at his birthday celebration to continue their support for Lumina, saying that “Lumina is the lifeblood of Shakespeare in Maryland!”

The birthday celebration ended in a more traditional fashion with champagne and cake, as well as a toast from Minton to Raskin, fittingly a quote from Will Shakespeare himself:

This is the noblest Roman of them all:

His life is gentle, and the elements

So mixed in him that Nature might stand up

And say to all the world “This is a man!” 

Toasting Jamie.

Lumina’s director, David Minton, toasts Jamie Raskin on the occasion of his birthday and their collaboration in the adaptation of Measure for Measure. Photo by Julie Wiatt.

Featured photo by Angela J. Davis.
Photos by Angela J. Davis and Julie Wiatt.