Stuff that Happens
Stuff that happens during the play
- Three “weïrd sisters” plan to meet with Macbeth.
- The King of Scotland (Duncan) and his sons (Malcolm and Donalbain) receive reports that Macbeth, who is the Thane (Lord) of Glamis, and Banquo have been victorious in battle against Norway and the Scottish rebels, including the Thane of Cawdor. Duncan orders the execution of Cawdor.
- Macbeth and Banquo encounter the weïrd sisters, who predict that Macbeth will be pronounced Thane of Cawdor, then King; and that Banquo’s children will be kings. Almost immediately, news arrives that King Duncan has named Macbeth the new Thane of Cawdor.
- By naming his son Malcolm the Prince of Cumberland, Duncan declares that Malcolm will succeed him on the throne. Duncan then invites himself to Macbeth’s castle, Inverness.
- Lady Macbeth reads a letter from Macbeth telling her about the weïrd sisters’ prophesies; when Macbeth arrives, she urges him to “catch the nearest way” to the throne by killing Duncan during his visit.
- Macbeth agrees to the deed and, after changing and rechanging his mind, kills the sleeping King that night. Lady Macbeth places the bloody daggers to frame the drugged guards for the murder.
- Macduff discovers the murdered King in the morning, and Macbeth kills the guards out of “violent love” for the dead King.
- The King’s sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, flee to England and to Ireland, respectively, fearing that they will be blamed for Duncan’s murder.
- Macbeth becomes King and, in fear of the third prophesy (that Banquo’s sons will be kings), orders the murders of Banquo and his son, Fleance. Banquo is killed, but his son escapes.
- The ghost of Banquo appears at a royal banquet, but only Macbeth can see him. After Lady Macbeth dismisses the guests, Macbeth resolves to revisit the weïrd sisters and he reveals that he foresees more violence to come.
- The weïrd sisters use their magic to conjure apparitions who assure Macbeth that he cannot be defeated by anyone “of woman born” or vanquished until the Birnam Forest itself attacks him at his castle on Dunsinane hill (an unlikely occurrence, in Macbeth’s mind).
- Macbeth orders the death of Macduff’s family.
- Macduff joins Malcolm’s army in England. After Malcolm tests Macduff’s loyalty to Macbeth, Ross reports the savage murder of Macduff’s family, and Macduff swears to kill Macbeth.
- Violence and death ensue.
Notes from the Director
Darkness, Blood, and Love
(notes I sent the actors before rehearsals started)
- The stage directions in the Folio set up a situation where torches exiting the stage leave Macbeth in the dark to “see” the supernatural special effect of a dagger that leads him off the stage, Lady Macbeth enters in the dark, Macbeth joins her onstage with the bloody daggers in the dark where neither one of them can see each other for a decent number of lines.
- We will have torches onstage with us (in addition to candles once or twice) and we will milk the Elizabethan/Jacobean technique of “acting the darkness” while the entire stage and audience are lit up like they would have been in the 2:00 pm sun of the Globe theatre for the first performance of Macbeth.
Staging the Supernatural, the Scary, and the Gross
- What an awesome challenge we have in carrying the torch (so to speak) of doing Macbeth using Shakespeare’s staging conditions to gross-out, freak-out, surprise, delight, and scare our audiences without light/sound boards or fog machines.
- We will create a live, acoustic soundtrack: creepy sounds/voices that will help an audience imagine the heath, the castles, the backdrop for the battles in the way that Shakespeare’s company did for the play’s first audiences…remember, Shakespeare designed this play to be done without sets, without special lighting effects, electricity, etc.
- I want us to use a good amount of blood (and not ruin the costumes): witches, blood captain, bloody daggers, bloody hands, bloody Banquo’s gory head.
- I want great stage violence that has some brutal stuff (ASC Director of Training, Colleen Kelley, will be our Fight Director and we will work our buts off to have safe, but thrilling fights).
- The Ghost of Banquo is the actor coming out onstage (with a lot of blood on him)…Macbeth can see the ghost, the other characters cannot (like the Ghost of Hamlet, Sr. in the closet scene)…Macbeth’s “dagger of the mind” is a Jacobean special effect written in the lines that Macbeth can see leading him through the darkness to the murder (and no one else can see); it is not a prop knife hanging by fishing line flying across the stage.
- The witches have the power the script gives them: no more, no less.
- We won’t be making Lady Macbeth one of the witches; we won’t be making Macbeth the Third Murderer (or one of the murderers who kills the Duff family); we won’t have the witches costumed as cheerleaders/priests/nuns/children/topless-Hooters-Girls and appearing in other scenes; we won’t be doing a lot of things that a lot of productions do.
Underneath it all…running through it all…has to be…love
- If our production is not filled with big love, the story/tragedy doesn’t work.
- If Macbeth is just an evil s.o.b. a) it doesn’t match the words and b) who cares about his thoughts/feelings/guilt/journey?
- If Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth don’t love each other truly/madly/deeply, who cares about the ride that rips them apart?
- I want Macbeth to be as thoughtful/introspective/intelligent as Hamlet, but also a warrior who is part Henry V, part Titus, part Richard III, part Wolverine, part Captain America.
- I want Mr./Mrs. Macbeth to be in an awesome/sexy marriage of equals.
- I want Macbeth’s heart to break when he gets the news that his Soul Mate/love-of-his-life is dead.
- If Banquo and Macbeth DON’T love each other like the war-scarred, blood-brothers they are in the text, who cares about the descent into jealousy/doubt/murder?
- I want Duncan to be a great king that everybody loves, including/especially Macbeth.
- But I also want a deserving Malcolm rather than a nerdy weakling that we all thing would make a horrible king.
- I want three-dimensional characters that allow us to care about them.
In the end
- We need to find the rhythms, the reasons, and the ride Shakespeare has written for us; then we can invite the audience to join us.
- We can be great at playing the darkness, creating the supernatural, and grossing out the audience; but if we’re not great at finding the love, telling the story, and giving the audience characters to care about, then nothing else matters.
Co-founder and Artistic Director