Preview: All New Mac Beth Portrayed By All-Female Cast At Seattle Repertory Theatre

Macbeth at Seattle Repertory Theatre on equality365.com

Seattle Repertory Theatre presents an all-female cast in an all-new adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, created by Ericka Schmidt. She also directs the play which runs May 18th to June 17th in the Leo K Theatre at the Rep. The production is part of the Seattle Celebrates Shakespeare Festival.

Mean Girls meet Macbeth, or as theater folks refer to it, That Scottish Play.

Theatre companies are featuring all-female casts. (Films are doing the same. The Oceans 8, opening June 8, has a cast of superstar females.) Director Phyllida Lloyd is famous for her all-female assaults on Shakespeare on both sides of the Atlantic. Seattle Shakespeare Company was the first major theater in Seattle to feature an all-female cast.

In director Schmidt’s innovative adaptation, seven young women gather after school to re-tell the story of Macbeth, Shakespeare’s epic tragedy about the corrosive effects of ambition. Witches, ghosts, and prophecies drive this dark tale of a Scottish general who believes he is destined to be King of Scotland. And as the girls immerse themselves further and further in this infamous tragedy, the line between real life and bloody fantasy becomes increasingly blurred…

macbeth at seattle repertory theatre on equality365.comSchmidt’s production features young women playing high school-aged girls role-playing each one of Shakespeare’s infamous roles – from Lady Macbeth to MacDuff to the title role itself. Her inspiration came from the catastrophic and highly-publicized stabbing cases involving young American girls. She began to envision what Macbeth and its themes would look like in the context of bullying and female friendships.

Macbeth is a tragedy by William Shakespeare; it is thought to have been first performed in 1606.  Half the length of Hamlet, it is the shortest of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Throughout its 400-year history, Macbeth has remained one of Shakespeare’s most enduring and popular plays.

It’s dark, noisy, bloody and violent. From the play’s dark beginning, Macbeth never lets up. It dramatizes the damaging physical and psychological effects of political ambition on those who seek power for its own sake. Sound familiar?

A brave Scottish general named Macbeth receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and takes the Scottish throne for himself. MacDuff discovers Duncan’s body and becomes an avenging hero.

Once Macbeth commits one murder, he can’t stop. He murders everyone around him to cover up his crimes. Except Lady Macbeth and MacDuff .  She dies offstage, supposedly by her own hand.

MacDuff lives to fight another day. Macbeth brags to MacDuff that he cannot be killed by a man who was born by a woman. No problem. MacDuff was not technically born by a woman—his was a Caesarean birth. He fights Macbeth and kills him.

Photograph of Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, in 1888 production

Photograph of Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, in 1888 production

Lady Macbeth is nasty piece of work–Shakespeare’s most evil feminine creation. Her satanic prayer to the forces of darkness is h catalyst for Macbeth’s first murder, that of Duncan, and her deteriorating mental state, culminating in her sleepwalking scene, where she utters those infamous words, “Out, out, damned spot.”

Over the course of many centuries, the play has attracted some of the most renowned actors to the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. It has been adapted to film, television, opera, novels, even comic books.

According to a theatrical superstition, called the Scottish curse, speaking the name Macbeth inside a theatre will cause disaster. A variation of the superstition also forbids quoting it within a theatre except as part of an actual rehearsal or performance of the play. So strong is the belief among actors that taboos still exist today against speaking the name “Macbeth” in the theater (outside the play’s text itself). Those who break the rules must perform time-honored rituals to undo the curse: Leave the room, turn around three times, spit, knock on the door three times, and beg to be readmitted.

The performance history of this play reveals a series of bad fortunes that could be viewed as being cursed. In its first production outside England in 1672, the Dutch actor playing Macbeth was having an affair with his Lady Macbeth—who happened to be the wife of the actor playing Duncan. One evening, the murder scene was particularly bloody, and Duncan did not return for his curtain call. Macbeth served a life sentence for his all-too-realistic murder.

When Lawrence Olivier played the title role in 1937, he narrowly escaped death as a heavy weight swung from the fly loft above, crushing the chair where he had been seated until moments before.

A 1942 production directed by and starring John Gielgud had four fatalities during its run, including two of the witches and Duncan: the set was quickly repainted and used for light comedy—whose lead actor then died suddenly.

When Stanislavsky, the great Russian director, mounted an elaborate production, the actor playing Macbeth forgot his lines during a dress rehearsal, and signaled to the prompter several times, but with no success. Finally, he went down to the prompt box and found the prompter dead, clutching his script. Stanislavsky immediately cancelled the entire run.

The actors at Seattle Rep know better than to utter a gratuitous Macbeth. And for those who love the Bard’s poetic verse, rest assured. Schmidt sticks to iambic pentameter. You will recognize many of the famous phrases and lines. But prepare yourself. During this 90 minute-production (no intermission), there will be blood, along with sudden loud noises, strobe lights, and graphic violence.

Charlotte Schweiger portrays Macbeth with Izabel Mar as Lady Macbeth, Tamsen Glaser is Banquo, Macbeth’s rival, while Klarissa Marie Robles portrays MacDuff, the avenging hero. The “Double, double, toil and trouble” trio of witches are portrayed by Sophie Kelly-Hedrick, Laakan McHardy, and Analiese Emerson Guettinger.

Recommended for age 16 and older, Mac Beth runs 90 minutes without intermission Tuesday-Sunday, through June 17 in the Leo K. Theatre at Seattle Repertory Theatre. Tickets start at $17; Discounted tickets for groups of 10+ may be purchased by calling 206.443.2224. For ticket reservations, call the Seattle Rep Box Office at 206.443.2222 or toll-free at 877.900.9285, or go online at SeattleRep.org.

About Erica Schmidt
Seattle Rep audiences will remember Schmidt’s work as the co-creator and writer of the 2011 smash hit, award-winning play Humor Abuse, a collaboration with performer Lorenzo Pisoni. Her additional directorial credits are extensive and include Richard II with Robert Sean Leonard (The Old Globe); All the Fine Boys at The New Group (writer and director); Turgenev’s A Month In The Country with Peter Dinklage and Taylor Schilling (Classic Stage Company); Dennis Kelly’s Taking Care Of Baby (Manhattan Theatre Club); Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s I Call My Brothers and the Obie Award-winning Invasion! (both for The Play Company); Rent (Tokyo); Moliere’s Imaginary Invalid, Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Sorcerer, and Copland’s The Tender Land (all at Bard Summer Scape); Carnival (The Paper Mill Playhouse); Quincy Long’s People Be Heard(Playwrights Horizons); Gary Mitchell’s Trust (The Play Company, Callaway Award nominee); As You Like It (The Public Theater/NYSF, chashama; New York International Fringe Festival Winner for Best Direction); Debbie Does Dallas (wrote the adaptation and directed Off-Broadway for The Araca Group); and Spanish Girl (Second Stage Uptown).

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About Starla Smith

Starla Smith is a career journalist, writing features for such publications as The New Yorker, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Daily News, The Des Moines Register, Vibe and a prize-winning Gannett Newspaper. She helped launch Theater Week Magazine and eventually became its publisher. As a regular contributor to Playbill, her interviews and photos were featured in Playbill and Playbill-on-line. Smith was featured in the New York Times "Style" section for her "Word Portraits," specialized tributes, speeches, and presentation profiles. And she covered theater and features for City Search, Digital City, and the Tena Duberry WOW! Radio show. She previously served as astrology guru for Out Magazine, and she hastens to assure her readers that "Starla" is indeed her real name.

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