A tumultuous piece of historical Scotland is coming to Northwestern. Featuring action, magic, murder and swordplay, Shakespeare’s Macbeth opens tonight in the England Proscenium Theatre. The script is a theatrical classic, but this production is shaping up to be anything but old-fashioned. For one thing, the design elements are much more than your stereotypical medieval fare: the show includes a multilevel set, complete sound and lighting designs and projections on the floor of the stage.
Junior Carolyn Hopkins, costume designer, has created an entire cast of historically accurate costumes as well. One of her biggest challenges was in finding a balance between some of the show’s more imaginative aspects and real medieval clothing.
“The first thing they told us was ‘surrealist approach,’” Hopkins said. “Sort of impressions; not really realistic. ‘Blood’ was also a lot of Dr. Bob’s main image that he gave us early on, so that’s what I initially began working with—‘surrealist’ and ‘blood.’”
From Macbeth’s deep purple tunic and the three witches’ decidedly mystical attire to large amounts of actual stage blood, these elements are echoed both in the costumes and in the rest of the play. Beyond the initial spectacle, however, lies a better-known story than one might think.
“I think it’s Shakespeare’s most accessible play,” said Dr. Robert Hubbard, director. “It’s got a lot of quotes people will recognize, even if they didn’t know they were from Macbeth.”
Along with the familiarity provided in lines like “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes” and “Fair is foul, and foul is fair,” Macbeth is also Shakespeare’s second shortest play. This makes it an easy introduction for those who would not normally choose to see Shakespeare. And the ensemble has been working hard to keep the story understandable and fun.
“The actors are all doing a phenomenal job,” Hopkins said. “Their characterizations are to the extent that even if you don’t know what the Shakespearean might be saying, they are able to communicate it in a way that tells the story.”
“Basically it’s about Macbeth and his wife who are blessed with the gift of power,” said senior Abby McCubbin, who plays one of the witches. “The witches enable Macbeth to have this power, and Lady Macbeth encourages him to go beyond that because of the prophecies with witches have given him…he does everything possible to keep himself king for as long as possible.”
Besides Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, and the witches, the show features a host of other characters, including two played by NW professors Dr. Tim Huffman and Dr. Laird Edman.
“I’m excited to see the production come together as a whole,” Hopkins said. “Everyone has been working together really hard, and it will be wonderful when it is in one piece.”
“It’s pretty intense,” McCubbin said. “But it’s so much fun.”
Macbeth performances will be in the England Proscenium Theatre Nov. 13, 14, 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 21 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are free for students.