By Michael Nacey ’19
Macbeth, Bellarmine’s fall drama, began this past Friday, October 26th, providing an opportunity to celebrate the work of William Shakespeare, to learn a little about this year’s Justice Summit on Gender, and to give the half of the student body studying the play a refresher.
Moreover, seeing Macbeth live is an opportunity to view Shakespeare’s work in its intended medium. Says Macbeth’s director Mr. Marcel: “He didn’t intend for these plays to be read passively at home. Shakespeare’s plays need to be seen and experienced because as the player king in Hamlet, “‘The purpose of playing –or acting or theater in general—is to hold a mirror up to nature, to show human beings, to show humanity what they’re like’,” which Macbeth does with a story surprisingly relevant today.””
According to Mr. Marcel, “These plays are relevant now because they teach us what it means to be human. The play Macbeth is about ambition and power and what deceitful men will do to gain and maintain power. I mean, you look at our current state of politics. We have a lot of deceitful men trying to maintain power, so they can gain more power.” Simultaneously, Macbeth has a lot to do with the issue of masculinity and toxic masculinity, a facsimile of the more general theme of the Justice Summit this year.
In the words of Frederick Fajardo ’19, a member of theater tech, “What Macbeth has to offer specifically regarding gender mainly can be found in the character Lady Macbeth.” “Throughout the play, so many characters say, ‘Be a man!’ For Macbeth, that seems to really push his buttons. That seems to be a trigger for him and whenever Lady Macbeth wants to get something she wants, she says that to him and he usually goes along because that affects him. It’s interesting if you’re playing the character, Macbeth, why that might be something that triggers you. So, why are you so insecure in you’re masculinity that that works for you.” Additionally, Frederick mentions a monologue where Lady Macbeth “talks to God and says ‘God unsex me here,’” referencing the manipulation and power struggles central to Macbeth and bringing up questions pertaining to the issue of gender such as “what if [Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s] roles were switched?” and how would Macbeth differ because of that reversal.
The Justice Summit on Gender has also influenced this production of Macbeth. Mr. Marcel, who first directed this play about 15 years ago, “cut about 15% of the text,” instituted gender-neutral casting, hired a female fight director, and made some slight changes in the play to highlight Lady Macbeth’s character arc in which she develops a conscience because of the blood on her hands.
Regardless of the relevance of Macbeth, a lot of work has been put into it from its director, techies, actors, and many others. There is, says Fajardo, “one unified set-piece, it’s a wall, a castle wall, with a balcony on the back. So you can see that during the show there will be cast members up there above the set.” On top of that, there are weeks of rehearsal by Macbeth’s actors (some of whom are David DeRuiter ’19 as Macbeth, Zoe Prior as Lady Macbeth, and Matthew Swain ’19 as Macduff) as well as the work to procure costumes for the play, and to light it, among other processes making Macbeth possible. Amidst this work is “the most stressful part,” declares Fajardo, which “is that our ultimate goal is to put on a great show.”
Meanwhile, the bedrock for Macbeth is, of course, Shakespeare’s original, 395-year-old work, “written,” adds Mr. Marcel, “at a time when he was at the height of his poetic prowess.” Therefore, Mr. Marcel mentions, “the poetry in [Macbeth] is pretty amazing” and the entirety of the play is “rich with imagery and symbolism and motifs and all relate to the message of the play.”
As opposed to having Macbeth taught in a classroom setting, however, this production of Macbeth is exciting and fast-paced because of the multitude of other elements present. States Mr. Marcel, “I like this play because it’s short, it’s got witches, it’s got blood, it’s got a ghost. There are some really cool scenes when you’re seeing it live that are just visually striking and interesting that keep you involved. It could be a swordfight, it could be Macbeth hallucinating that he’s seeing a dagger, it could be them coming in with bloody hands. It’s just, I think, a play of Shakespeare’s that will keep an audience’s attention. And that’s the way Shakespeare intended it.”
Overall, this year’s production of Macbeth promises an experience that adds to that of reading Shakespeare’s work, adding action, drama, and ideas to talk about after the show. Tickets for Macbeth can be found at http://www.bcp.org/.