The Graceland University Theatre Department will present an ambitious production of “Macbeth,” one of Shakespeare’s darkest tragedies, under the direction of Graceland Associate Professor of Theatre Tracy Salter, MFA. Shows will take place in the JR Theatre in Graceland’s Shaw Center on the Lamoni campus at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, April 4-6, and at 5 p.m. Sunday, April 7.
The play is set in medieval Scotland and follows the tragic rise and fall of Macbeth. He has been given ambiguous messages by three witches he believes predict great triumphs for him. He is wrong.
Salter characterizes Macbeth in terms of his lust for power and vaulting ambition that leads to the loss of his humanity. Because of its realistic violence, the play is not recommended for young children.
Salter gives high praise to “the brilliantly creative mind of Kim Manuel,” Graceland Assistant Professor of Theatre and Scene Design. The action uses the entire floor of the black box theatre with a single row of the audience sitting along the walls. However, brave audience members may request tickets to sit on pieces of the set itself scattered throughout the stage and be surrounded by the action.
Assisting with the Graceland production are three visiting artists: Kris Kirkwood for lighting design, Susanna Douthit in costumes and Marc Liby for instruction in stage combat.
Graceland Professor of Psychology David Devonis, PhD, plays multiple roles, and Adjunct Voice Professor Stephen Cunningham, MM, plays a victim of Macbeth’s violence in his role as Duncan, the rightful king. Graceland Instructor of Percussion and Director of Athletic Bands Melinda Leoce, MM, will provide live percussion as well.
Graceland students Andrew Dipoto '19 and Georgia Seagraves '22 take the roles of the evil Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, and Shea Swafford '20 plays the avenging Macduff. The cast also includes an ensemble of 21 actors who fill multiple parts.
In one sense, history repeats itself in the theatre department: Dipoto played the bad guy, Carl, in the homecoming production of “Ghost.” He murdered his best friend, played by Ashly Elliot, who comes back to haunt him for the rest of the show. In “Macbeth,” Dipoto murders Banquo, played by Elliot, who once again comes back to haunt him.
Why undertake the challenge of producing something as demanding as a Shakespeare tragedy? Salter strongly believes in the educational value of the great works. “If you can play the classics, you can play anything,” she states.
Future generations of actors start to learn the beauty and challenges of working with heightened language and this particular style of storytelling. It takes great training and students have to start somewhere or they never get the chance to become experts at it.
The script includes historic language in verse. The length of the lines requires breath control and musicality to convey the meaning to a modern audience. Students started at all levels of competence and comfort. It is “just plain physically demanding,” Salter notes. The play comes in five acts that require stamina from the cast and crew.
Salter and Graceland Assistant Professor of English Catherine Clifford, PhD, who acts as dramaturg and creative partner for Macbeth, have begun to plan for an ambitious summer theatre workshop to provide undergraduates from around the country with Shakespeare experience. Their dream is a six-week summer course that would utilize Shaw Center. The first four weeks would be to rehearse three Shakespeare works that would be offered to the public during the final two weeks. Stay tuned.
Tickets for “Macbeth” go on sale at $5 for adults and $1 for students with an ID through the Shaw Ticket Office or by calling 641.784.5296. You can visit https://www.graceland.edu/vpa/theatre for more information on Graceland's theatre department.