The University’s Classic Players will bring one of the most famous plays, by one of the most famous playwrights, to Rodeheaver Auditorium starting Wednesday.
Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a dark tale of unscrupulous ambition and its consequences, should both frighten and entertain the audience.
There will be performances at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1, and at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 3, of the ‘Scottish Play,’ as Macbeth is frequently called in theatrical circles.
Macbeth begins the play as a war hero praised by many people, including King Duncan of Scotland. But he quickly becomes consumed by ambition, goaded on by the prophecy given to him by witches, predicting he will one day be king.
He leaves a river of blood in his wake that will eventually drown him at the hands of Macduff, one of the few good characters in the play, who eventually avenges the ravages of Macbeth upon the kingdom.
“The rest of the play is really about whether what [the witches] say comes true because they say it or if it’s simply a suggestion they put in his mind and he tries to make that happen,” director Mr. Ron Pyle said.
“I don’t think he gave a lot of thought to the potential of ever being king [in the beginning],” said staff member Mr. Philip Eoute, who plays Macbeth. “But when the witches mention it, he immediately starts thinking pretty violent thoughts.”
Pyle calls the play a cautionary tale because it shows the results of yielding to temptation and the consequences that have to be paid.
“I believe it expresses an important point that scripture agrees with — sin destroys, and the way in which it destroys is not immediate,” he said. “There’s a long period of just deterioration from the inside out.”
In addition to the witches and his own greed, Macbeth experiences a good deal of influence from his wife, Lady Macbeth, played by Mrs. Shawn MacDonald, a faculty member in the Division of Communication.
In some ways Lady Macbeth is even more extreme in her ambition than her husband, and she drives him to commit his most bloody deeds. But she shows tenderness a few times in stark contrast to her usual coldness.
“She’s complex,” MacDonald said. “She sees an opportunity for her husband to be great, and she will stop at nothing for that to happen. She loves him very much, which is weird, because they’re capable of murder but also capable of loving one another.”
The witches play a central role in the story. Pyle said they’ve been working to make them believable and avoid seeming cliché.
Senior performance studies major Meg Jones, who plays the head witch, explained they want to show the witches possessed with the power they channel in order for them to be completely believable.
Jones said the role has challenged her in performing with such odd behavior on stage. “[The witches] do some pretty ridiculous things,” she said. “I’ve learned you have to be one hundred percent when you’re in the role.” She said if an actor starts worrying about looking stupid, it shows in the acting.
Between the sword fighting scenes, witches’ magic, special lighting and projections, the play should be very visually stimulating.
“It has a lot of really cool, exciting moments in it that are just really good theatre,” Pyle said. “I think students will enjoy it.”
MacDonald hopes the performance will entertain but still communicate the cautionary theme of temptation and greed. “I think that people will walk away from it [saying], ‘Wow, I’m really entertained,’ and ‘Wow, I want to stay as far away from that as possible.’”