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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Macbeth- Concept

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedies, a play considered “unlucky” . . . so much so that more superstitious theatre-folk refer to it as “The Scottish Play” or “Macplay” or something other permutation of the title without actually using the title. Various superstitions hang around the play, just as “borrowed robes” hang from the title character. Flying in the face of theatre superstition, this production will feature an ominous cast of thirteen performers, most in multiple roles.

When the play is stripped down to its basic plot, it features a man, loyal to his king, who becomes seduced by the allure of power so much that he compromises his better judgment to fulfill his own ambitions. One murder, as it has it, however is not enough. Macbeth realizes early on “we have scorched the snake, not kill’d it” and thus begins a series of increasingly brutal murders in order to cover up previous acts of violence. Initially spurred by ambition, Macbeth is later overcome with guilt and paranoia and acts out of self-preservation. In the end, he is exposed as a traitor and his bloody reign of terror is brutally ended by a broken and vengeful Macduff.


This production will explore Macbeth’s role as a traitor as well as the themes of violence and brutality. It’s not as though Macbeth had never killed before he murdered Duncan. In fact, he had slaughtered many on the battlefield. This suggests it isn’t so much that he doesn’t want to get blood on his hands, but that the question of loyalty ultimately causes his moral breakdown.


By transporting the time and location from a Medieval Scotland to a Prohibition Era New Orleans, this production will embrace the themes of violence, ambition, sexuality, and mystery. The Quad will be transformed to a decaying graveyard, overgrown with kudzu and years of moral disintegration. In many ways, the play exists in a liminal space somewhere between life and death with the presence of witches, ghosts, and apparitions. Macbeth as a character seems to care little for life, until he realizes that his own life will end. This change and discovery of his own humanity ultimately makes him into a tragic figure caught in a world of fast-living and violence.

The pace of the play should be fast, furious- a violent, sexy spectacle that feels like a Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese film. Inspiration comes from movies such as Inglourious Basterds, Goodfellas, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Chinatown, and Pulp Fiction. The music of the era will include the sounds of New Orleans jazz. The music of Count Basie, Bessie Smith, and Louis Armstrong also serve as inspiration material for the production. The style of the piece demands constant energy, witty line delivery to juxtapose the images of violence, and strong, physically engaged characterization.

As the owner of a seedy, New Orleans nightclub, Macbeth is perfectly poised to be next in line to over take Kingpin, Duncan's underground crime syndicate. This all adds to the idea that this is a world where moral compromise is not out of the ordinary. What makes Macbeth as a character unique, is that he does gain a sense of humanity. He is, in many ways, far too intelligent and thoughtful to be in his line of work. He is a ruthless killer with the soul of a philosopher.

The tagline and mantra for this production is: "SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAYS COMES. DIRTY. SEXY. FUN."

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