Sunday, November 6, 2016

Mac and Me

In its 4th summer tour, The New Renaissance Theatre Company’s Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project will offer me the opportunity to direct my favorite play by William Shakespeare and one with which I have a great affinity: The Tragedie of Macbeth.

The first experience that I had with Shakespeare was in 5th grade when my teacher introduced us to the witches’ scene: ‘Double, double, toil and trouble.’ It was Halloween and my teacher thought is was appropriate. For some reason the very politically incorrect lines ‘nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips’ always struck me. These are the first lines of Shakespeare that I ever memorized.

In high school, my first Shakespearean role of was Banquo. We wore the girls’ field hockey uniforms in lieu of kilts. I’m pretty sure that Macbeth and Macduff were cast because they had red hair. Should I never have a career in the theatre, I know why.

Professionally, I have performed in 2 productions of the play. During the first one, we had consistent difficulties with the lighting system and during one show it failed completely and we performed with the house lights on (in my opinion, the best show of the run). It was during the second production when I was first recognized in the subway in New York City. That’s something one does not forget.

Not only do I think this script offers some of the best drama, language, imagery and moments in theatre, but I am excited at applying the unrehearsed cue script technique to this play. Whenever we use scenes from Macbeth in workshops the results are examples of just how well the technique works in creating stage pictures and characters. There are some wonderful demonstrations which prove that just by following the rules of the technique actors can deliver exciting and unique interpretations of well known scenes that are familiar to spectators with even a passing knowledge of the works of Shakespeare. I think our audience will receive some pleasant surprises.

Every time I read the script I am struck by something new: a new image, a new thought about costumes, lighting or staging; a new take on a moment or character. My ego tells me that sometime in the future I will have a career defining production of this play. Peter Brook had his ‘Dream,’ I will have my Macbeth.

This will also be the first play that USP will bring to the stage that has major parts written by a writer other than Shakespeare. Large swathes of the script are attributed to Thomas Middleton. Gary Taylor, the distinguished scholar and professor at Florida State University has even included Macbeth in his anthology, Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works. (The impact, if any, that this may have on the effectiveness of the technique will be discussed in another blog post.)

USP’s production will offer everyone involved, myself included, an entertaining and fresh look at this play (I obviously have some baggage connected to Macbeth). Letting go and letting the technique do the work will be a refreshing way to experience a play with which I am very familiar. Most of all, I am looking forward to strengthening my relationship with this play I’ve known for almost 30 years.

- Andy Kirtland, Co-Founding Managing Director of The New Renaissance Theatre Company (which also produces The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project