by William Shakespeare
Directed by Lesley Schisgall Currier
From the Playbill:
We first produced this play in 1991. At that time, our son Jackson was two and a half. We didn’t have many child care options, and he spent a lot of time at the theatre.
After a couple months of rehearsals and performances, I remember being surprised to hear my two-year-old explaining the plot of the play to someone. He said it was a story about a man who kills the king, becomes king himself, starts killing everyone, and goes crazy because he feels so bad about what he’s done.
I realized then that this play is very much a fairy tale. The story has the mystical, medieval feel of a Tarot Deck, with swords, cups, coins and wands, and iconic figures like kings, witches, murderers and healers. It is both simple enough for a two-year old to understand, yet deep enough for us to continue to find new insights after more than 400 years.
There are so many things to explore in this play. Part of its magic is the way it interweaves imagery: listen for references to babies (the future), hands (our present actions), blood (once spilled, life is past). And then there is the glorious, pounding rhythm of the language; the music of the words alone are enough to weave a magic spell, as the sounds of horses’ hooves – another recurring image – mark time ticking by.
Macbeth is also a play of opposites that are somehow one: fair is foul and foul is fair, battles are both lost and won, false face must hide what the false heart does know. All of the imagery, rhythm and antitheses relentlessly remind us that we, like the characters in this play, are both individuals and archetypes. We live our lives like actors in a fairy tale, where forces greater than ourselves exert an inexorable pull, even as we believe we are exercising our free will. Things are not always what they seem, and everything has a double nature. In this play, trees turn into men and men into trees. Women appear and disappear like bubbles. Friends may be enemies, and seeming enemies may be friends. Words equivocate, and deeds must arbitrate. This is a murky world, thick with paranoia. It is enough to drive anyone mad.
As you’ll see, we are exploring the madness in this production. There are so many unanswerable questions about reality and insanity. Is Macbeth mad to see metaphysical spirits, or daggers in the air? Are these characters driven insane by guilt and remorse, or are they crazy to begin with? What is madness? We’ve made some choices that shed a certain light on this ancient story, and bring to life the multitudinous scorpions of Macbeth’s mind. It’s one way to imagine this story; there are always doubly redoubled alternatives to explore.
Shakespeare’s great play touches a deep chord within us, making us examine what we might be capable of doing to attain power, as we empathize with and recoil from these gloriously articulate, highly imaginative characters.
Welcome to Birnum Wood!