Perspectives: 'Macbeth' director's recommendation: 'Invest in yes'

Perspectives Macbeth. Robert O'Hara. Steven Cole Hughes‘Perspectives’ is a series of free panel discussions held just before the first public performance of each DCPA Theatre Company staging. The ‘Macbeth’ panel included director Robert O’Hara and actor Steven Cole Hughes, above, as well as actors Alec Hynes and Kim Fischer (pictured below right). The moderator was Literary Director Doug Langworthy. The next ‘Perspectives’ will be held before the first preview of ‘Smart People’ at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13, in the Jones Theatre. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

‘The Curse,’ the costumes and the king obsessed with witches are all fair game at season’s first Perspectives

By John Moore
Senior Arts Journalist

Macbeth An audience member before Friday’s first performance of Macbeth wanted to know: Is “The Curse” real?

He was talking about the most famous – and famously respected – superstition in all of theatre: Say the word “Macbeth” inside a theatre, and you invite disaster. Better to say “The Scottish Play” or “Mackers.” Shakespeare’s play gets its evil reputation in part because of the witches in the story, and of course the legendary tales of misfortune that have been associated with hundreds of Macbeth stagings going back to 1606.

Macbeth. Perspectives. Photo by John Moore. Robert O’Hara, who is directing Macbeth for the DCPA Theatre Company, says so far – knock on wood! – there have been no incidents attributable to black magic lurking under the brand-new Space Theatre floorboards. But he said things got super weird before rehearsals even began.

O’Hara invited the actors playing Macbeth and Lady M (Ariel Shafir and Adam Poss) to his home a few months ago to talk about the play. As they were diving into the play, O’Hara looked outside and noticed an inexplicable pack of wild kittens loitering underneath his tree. He says they didn’t live in the neighborhood, and they all disappeared by the next morning. But that day, Poss’ simple plane trip home from Cincinnati to Chicago ended up taking nearly 24 hours to complete.

Weird, sisters.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

Here are five more things we learned about ‘Macbeth at Perspactives:

Macbeth set design by Jason SherwoodTrue blue: NUMBER 1 Macbeth is O’Hara’s first Shakespeare production as a director. And while he brings a different sensibility to this staging that is evident from costumes to clothing to music to movement, he’s not rewriting a word of Shakespeare’s language. “Nothing you see will defame Shakespeare,” O’Hara said. “I didn’t come here to do Shakespeare in order to not do Shakespeare. I am a playwright, too, so if I wanted to do an adaptation of Shakespeare, I would have just written my own play. But at the same time, I don’t want the audience to see a museum piece. I want them to see something that shows how elastic Shakespeare is. I am not interested in how Shakespeare is ‘supposed’ to be done. I am interested in how I meet Shakespeare’s language today.”

(Pictured above and right: A look at the ‘Macbeth’ set design by Jason Sherwood.)

NUMBER 2About those costumes: “We don’t wear many. You’re welcome,” actor Steven Cole Hughes said to laughs. O’Hara said it makes perfect sense for warlocks to live their lives more unencumbered by inhibition (and clothing) than humans. “Our show is essentially warlocks putting on a play, and these warlocks have a different sense of their bodies. They have a different sense of nakedness,” O’Hara said. “But when it comes time for the warlocks to put on Shakespeare’s play, they add some Jacobean clothing. They’re costumes. But underneath, they are still who they are.”

NUMBER 3 What the Hecate? There is a character in the play who usually gets cut in contemporary stagings. Her name is Hecate, queen of the witches. Hecate says: ‘Bring Macbeth to the Pit of Acheron,” and that’s where O’Hara has chosen to set this production. It’s years after the real-life story of Macbeth, the witches are all male warlocks, and they are performing the play as a kind of historical ritual. And here, we will meet Hecate. “Robert did some research that said Hecate is a three-headed witch, so there are three of us actors paying her,” said Hughes. “We had the freedom to create both how we move and talk as a trio. Hecate has a monologue, and we split it up between the three of us.” 

NUMBER 4And as for the music: “It’s going to start loud, and get louder,” says Hughes. O’Hara only asks of his audience what he asked of his cast on the first day of rehearsal: “Invest in yes,” he said. And if you do, he added, “you will be rewarded at the end.” The play is performed as a ritual not unlike the Catholic Church’s Stations of the Cross. And each ritual is accompanied its own music, movement and lighting scheme. These are transitions that act as a bridge between the scenes that Shakespeare wrote, and the hybrid world these warlocks inhabit at the Pit of Acheron.

NUMBER 5Back to those those witches: Scotland’s King James I – yes, namesake of the King James Bible – was obsessed with the subject of witchcraft. There were 247 witch trials during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and King James, and he was a frequent instigator of them. Belief in witches was common at the time. James, who became the first king of both England and Scotland in 1603, even wrote a book on supernatural creatures and demons. James was also a big fan of live theatre, and he hired Shakespeare to write plays for him. The Bard wrote Macbeth specifically to please King James. In the play, quintessential good-guy Banquo is meant to represent James. And to please His Majesty, Shakespeare inserted more biblical imagery than in any of his other plays.

John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

Macbeth. Perspectives. Photo by John Moore.

Actors Steven Cole Hughes and Kim Fischer demonstrate some of the choreography in ‘Macbeth.’ Photo by John Moore.

: Ticket information

Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.

  • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
  • First performance Sept. 15, through Oct. 29
  • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
  • Tickets start at $25
  • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here

Macbeth: Previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage
Video: Adam Poss on a man playing Lady Macbeth
Video: Ariel Shafir on the young new warrior face of Macbeth
The masculinity of Macbeth
at a time when everything is shifting

Cast announced for Robert O’Hara’s reimagined Macbeth
Video, photos: Our coverage of the Space Theatre opening

Making of Macbeth: Full photo gallery:

Making of 'Macbeth'

Photos from the making of Robert O’Hara’s ‘Macbeth’ for the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

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