The Tale of Two Macbeths: Fall Play Flips a Shakespeare Script
"Shakespeare's swift and relentless tragedy uncovers the terrifying consequences of blind ambition. In medieval Scotland, a savage world of ghosts, witches, and bloody battlefields, a dark prophecy leads a warrior and his wife past the point of no return. Over the past three months Upper School students have interrogated the original script to pull out the hidden story of Lady Macbeth and devise an alternate version.
These words from Visual and Performing Arts educator Peter Buonincontro came to life last week during the Upper School's fall play production entitled Macbeth(s). In this student-driven production directed by OES educator Emily Stone, the thespians performed first the basics of the original play, then after intermission delivered a version filled with examinations of gender roles, power, and context for the audience regarding the treatment of women in Shakespeare's time.
As OES parent Chris Riser opined, "Macbeth(s) was riveting, fast-paced, and cutthroat. It literally flipped the script on gender. . .remixing/rehumanizing the women of Will's time, for all time. Powerful work! Excellent performances!"
Here in their own words are reflections from several community members involved in the play.
Was this your first OES theater production? If not, did it differ from other shows you've done?
Annie C. '18: This was my third OES play. Since I was in Medea, another Emily Stone production, I found many similarities in the creative process when developing the show. In both plays, Emily gave us lots of freedom to put in our own ideas and really make the show ours.
Interestingly enough, I played a chorus member in Medea and a witch in Macbeth(s). They are very similar roles: both outsiders overseeing but secretly pushing the progress of the story.
Aida K. '20: Going into this play, I had the feeling that many other novice actors have had before me—I had no idea what to expect. As the weeks passed, however, I became more and more comfortable within my character. Being in the school play, though stressful at times, was one of the best things I could have done with my time.
The moment when everything came together—lights, sound, movement, tone—Friday night, was a moment the likes of which I have never felt before.
What was it like to take a very famous work and transform it so drastically?
Andrew N. '19: While we presented an original version of Macbeth, we also did a revised one that was more modern and deeper that tackled hidden, very uncomfortable topics surrounding feminism and relationship dynamics.
Before the show there were fears among the cast because we didn't know how people would react to the bold changes in the second act. But we had confidence and hoped that audience members would find pieces of themselves in the play.
How did you approach learning about and portraying your character, particularly for the second half of the play?
Edward P. '18: I found my character (the Examiner) especially fun to play, because I absolutely hated him. The Examiner is a completely misogynistic, power-hungry weasel, and it was a good challenge to portray a character I didn't agree with at all—justifying all of [his] outrageous claims in my body and my voice.
Hannah W. '19: Instead of ignoring the toxic lines between Lady Macbeth and her husband, Emily, Peter, Max (Macbeth in the second act) and I decided to portray these two characters in the light of domestic abuse.
Acting is extremely vulnerable as it is, and playing the victim of something so traumatic was another level of difficulty for me, but also the most rewarding. We are drawn to the stories that make a commentary- whether it be social, political, or ethical, and I'm so happy that we were able to make a statement with this play
The lighting and movement in this show were incredible. What went into creating this part of the show experience?
Emily Stone, Director: I counted up the hours that Cara S. '18 (along with myself, Jem Pritchard, and Zoe H. '20) spent experimenting, meeting during lunchtimes, watching actors in rehearsal, hanging lights, setting up extra equipment, and programming cues—it totals over 100 hours.
Cara's commitment and work ethic was incredible; in my mind she surpassed the title of "Lighting Designer" for this show.
Bravo to all involved in this complex and creative undertaking!
(Photo Credits: John Holloran)
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