‘Macbeth’ For The Masses

We had an excellent article come out recently from the Daily Herald about the show. It talks about Macbeth, the ideas behind it, and the workshops we’re offering on Shakespeare.

‘Macbeth’ for the Masses

Janus Theatre production aims to make Shakespeare accessible to a modern audience

By Jamie Greco
Daily Herald correspondent

Another campaign season, filled with power struggles and alarming hostility has come and gone, and we can breathe a collective sigh of relief.  Or, as the Director of the upcoming Janus Theater production of Macbeth Sean Hargadon suggests, we can attend Macbeth, a play which focuses on similar themes of corruption of power and the danger of believing one’s own press.  “Although our political climate isn’t as bad as people killing themselves to get there,” he points out with a laugh. “It’s about somebody’s drive and ambition to get to the top, the desire to become king.  It’s about someone’s unchecked ambition.”

Macbeth also deals with another recognizable issue for current-day audiences: problems on the home front.  Macbeth and his wife struggle with the unfulfilled desire for children which causes turmoil in the marriage and leads to a deadly refocus.   “She takes that energy and ambition into something else, so she drives that through him, to become king at any cost,” said Hargadon.

“It’s also very contemporary in the sense that it’s about a woman who is extremely ambitious and knows how to make things happen, knows how to work a room,” Hargadon said  “She doesn’t feel like a woman from the time which makes her an amazing character.”

Hargadon has reworked the play to streamline it a bit, resulting in a more comfortable 75-minute performance.   “ I’m a big believer of keeping the script on point and focused. I try to cut the text back and keep what’s really important,” he said.

Some of Hargadon’s editing is concerned with maintaining the mood of the piece. Some characters and situations that would have been taken very seriously in Shakespeare’s time have been known to spawn giggles in modern audiences.  Hargadon looks to edit what might be considered campy in order to keep the integrity of the show’s themes.

“Shakespeare wrote the plays at a different time when special effects were words,” Hargadon said. “Today it’s about special effects.  You can see a bad movie with great special effects and get through it.  You cannot see a bad play without cringing, so it has to engage you right away.”

Another challenge can be the limited space and budget at the Elgin Art Showcase Theater, but Sean thinks that particular aspect has more positive than negative effect.  “The one special effect we have is proximity so we like to bring the audience very close to the action”

For many the greatest challenge with any Shakespeare play is Shakespeare himself.  The language intimidates some and completely excludes the material for others.  “I think it’s great stuff but, at the same time, you want to make sure an audience is following your story along,” Hargadon said.  “Sometimes you go out there and you’re thinking it’s all wonderful and the audience has no clue what they’re saying or doing.”

With that in mind, Janus Theatre has arranged two seminars that will take place previous to the play for theatergoers who’d like to learn or brush up on the Bard; one will explore the world of stage combat and the other geared toward understanding the script.

Jackie Davies, who recently played Lady Capulet in the Janus Production of Romeo and Juliet, will be presenting a seminar on Shakespearean language.  Davies feels that the language is misconceived as difficult and can be easily mastered.  “The language is 400-years-old and we’re not used to hearing it,” she said.  “It just takes a different toolbox to access the text.”

One of those tools is a script, which has been notated or interpreted, according to Davies.  “It explains the more archaic words we don’t use any more or concepts that would have been familiar with the audience of the time that’s not familiar to us any more.”

A sense of history and context can be helpful too,” she said.  “That’ll make the script come alive.”

The third tool is the understanding that Shakespearean works contain everything that is necessary to understand the people and situations.  “Once you understand that, you don’t have to fight it; you can just dig into it, layer upon layer,” Davies said.

Davies will present the class in a lively fashion focused on the audience experience. She stresses it is not a lecture and that it’s geared toward all levels of understanding.

 “It’s not an actor’s workshop,” she explained.  “There will be some sitting with pens and papers, but most of it’s very active, very up on your feet.  We’re moving around, working with words and scenes.”

While preparing for the seminar, Davies read something that spoke to her about the world of theater in comparison with other art forms.  “As an artist you can recreate a painting, or you can create a piece of music, but with Shakespeare you are in the middle of creation when you speak the words when you’re reading it aloud or an actor on stage or you’re reading it aloud or even on the page; it’s the act of bringing those words to life.” 

Workshops: 

What: Speak the Speech!- Working with Shakespeare’s Words with Jackie Davies
When: November 13 from 1:00 PM-5:00 PM
Where: Elgin Art Showcase 164 Division Street
Cost: $20

For show reservations, call 847-841-1713

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