By William Shakespeare
Directed by Daniel Sullivan
Main Season · Roda Theatre
February 19–April 10, 2016
Running time: 2 hours, plus one 15-minute intermission
Olivier Award winner and Tony Award nominee Conleth Hill (Lord Varys in Game of Thrones) and Tony, Academy, and Emmy Award winner Frances McDormand (Olive Kitteridge) star as the notorious couple in Shakespeare’s murderous play about the lust for power and the fickleness of fate. Joining these two powerhouses of the stage and screen is an exceptional ensemble of veteran actors from the Bay Area and beyond. Tony- and Obie Award-winning director Daniel Sullivan—dubbed the “go-to guy for Shakespeare” by the New York Times—helms this thrilling new production especially for Berkeley Rep’s audiences.
Macbeth includes heavy smoke and haze effects and a strobe effect. Berkeley Rep offers an advisory about any stage effect of potential concern to patrons’ health. We don’t offer advisories about subject matter, as sensitivities vary from person to person. If you have any concerns about content, please contact the box office.
Daniel Sullivan · Director
Daniel won the 2001 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play for Proof, and he was most recently nominated for another Tony in 2011 for The Merchant of Venice, starring Al Pacino. Daniel most recently directed The Country House, The Snow Geese, Orphans, and Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway. For the Public Theater, he directed A Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, All’s Well That Ends Well, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Stuff Happens, and The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Douglas W. Schmidt · Scenic Design
Of the over 200 productions designed by Douglas in the past 50 years, he has 50 Broadway credits including the original production of Grease, which for many years held the record for the longest-running show in the history of Broadway. His history with Director Daniel Sullivan dates back to the early 1970s when both were on the staff of the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center. In addition to working together at that venue they also collaborated over the years on productions at Seattle Repertory Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club. Locally his work has been seen at American Conservatory Theater and last summer for California Shakespeare Theater’s production of The Mystery of Irma Vep. Last year Douglas was honored with the United States Institute for Theatre Technology Award for Distinguished Achievement in Scene Design and the Robert L.B. Tobin Award for Sustained Excellence in Theatrical Design. His production of The Sound of Music recently opened to rave reviews at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles and began a two-year tour of the United States.
Meg Neville · Costume Design
Meg’s recent Berkeley Rep credits include One Man, Two Guvnors (also at South Coast Repertory); Party People (Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle nomination); Tribes; The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures; and X’s and O’s (A Football Love Story) (also at Center Stage in Baltimore). She also worked on Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Ghost Light; In the Wake; Yellowjackets; Eurydice (also at Second Stage Theatre and Yale Repertory Theatre); TRAGEDY: a tragedy; Suddenly Last Summer; Dinner with Friends; Closer; and The Life of Galileo. Her recent productions at Oregon Shakespeare Festival include Long Day’s Journey Into Night, The Cocoanuts (also at the Guthrie Theater), Taming of the Shrew, and Ghost Light. Meg is an associate artist with California Shakespeare Theater, where she has designed numerous productions including, recently, Twelfth Night. Other Bay Area theatre credits include Marin Theatre Company, the Cutting Ball Theater, American Conservatory Theater, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Joe Goode Performance Group, and Magic Theatre. She has also worked at Atlantic Theater Company, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Chicago Opera Theater, NY Stage and Film, Hartford Stage, Kirk Douglas Theatre, Portland Stage Company, and Dallas Theater Center. Meg is a graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Drama. She resides in San Francisco with her husband and children Daisy, Sunny, and Nate.
Pat Collins · Lighting Design
Pat’s Berkeley Rep credits include The Misanthrope and Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992. On Broadway she designed such shows as Orphans, Good People, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Sight Unseen, Doubt, Proof, The Heidi Chronicles, The Sisters Rosensweig, I’m Not Rappaport, The Threepenny Opera, Ain’t Misbehavin’, and others. She has designed the lighting for many productions at regional theatre companies, among which are Arena Stage, Center Stage in Baltimore, McCarter Theatre Center, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, the Lincoln Center, the Old Globe, the Alley Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Hartford Stage, Ford’s Theatre, and others. In the field of opera, Pat has designed for such companies as the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Santa Fe Opera, the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden), the Paris Opera, the Bayerisches Staatsoper (Munich), and others.
Dan Moses Schreier · Composer / Sound Design
Dan’s Broadway credits include The Visit (starring Chita Rivera), A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Act One, Sondheim on Sondheim, A Little Night Music, Gypsy (Patti Lupone), Radio Golf, John Doyle’s production of Sweeney Todd, A Catered Affair, Gem of the Ocean, Pacific Overtures, Assassins, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Into the Woods, Topdog/Underdog, Dirty Blonde, The Tempest (Patrick Stewart), and Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk. His off-Broadway credits include Road Show, Homebody/Kabul, Floyd Collins, and others. He composed music for The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino, Julius Caesar with Denzel Washington, The Tempest with Patrick Stewart, and Dan Hurlin’s Disfarmer at St. Ann’s Warehouse. Dan received four Tony Award nominations, three Drama Desk Awards, an Obie Award for Sustained Excellence, and has recently been commissioned to compose a musical with Brian Selznick (The Invention of Hugo Cabret) based on Brian’s book, The Houdini Box.
Alexander V. Nichols · Video Design
Alex is returning to Berkeley Rep for his 33rd production. His Broadway credits include Wishful Drinking, Hugh Jackman—Back On Broadway, and Nice Work If You Can Get It. His off-Broadway productions include In Masks Outrageous and Austere, Los Big Names, Horizon, Bridge & Tunnel, Taking Over, Through the Night, and In the Wake. Alex has worked at regional theatres throughout the country, including American Conservatory Theater, Mark Taper Forum, National Theatre of Taiwan, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and La Jolla Playhouse, among others. His dance credits include resident designer for Pennsylvania Ballet, Hartford Ballet, and American Repertory Ballet; lighting supervisor for American Ballet Theatre; and resident visual designer for the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company since 1989. His designs are in the permanent repertory of San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Hubbard Street Dance, Hong Kong Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre, ODC/SF, and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Alex’s other projects include the museum installation Circle of Memory, a collaboration with Eleanor Coppola, presented in Stockholm, Sweden, and the video and visual design for Life: A Journey Through Time, a collaboration with Frans Lanting and Philip Glass, presented at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam.
Dave Maier · Fight Director
A five-time recipient of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Fight Direction, Dave has choreographed violence for a dozen Berkeley Rep productions, including One Man, Two Guvnors; Party People; The House that will not Stand; Troublemaker, or the Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright, and The Lieutenant of Inishmore. He is the resident fight director for San Francisco Opera and California Shakespeare Theater. His work has also been seen at American Conservatory Theater, La Jolla Playhouse, Marin Theatre Company, SF Playhouse, Aurora Theatre, Magic Theatre, and Shotgun Players, among others. As an instructor of theatrical combat, Dave has taught classes and workshops for Stanford University, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, St. Mary’s College of California, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Pixar University. He is currently teaching stage combat classes at Berkeley Rep’s School of Theatre.
Lynne Soffer · Voice Coach
Lynne has served as dialect/text coach on over 265 productions at American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco Opera, Magic Theatre, California Shakespeare Theater, Marin Theatre Company, TheatreWorks, the Old Globe, Dallas Theater Center, Arizona Theatre Company, Arena Stage, Seattle Repertory Theatre, and Denver Center, among others, including over 35 productions for Berkeley Rep. Her film and television credits include Fruitvale, Metro, Duets, The Land of Milk and Honey, and America’s Most Wanted. Lynne is also a professional actor, acting teacher, and director and is the recipient of the 2011 Actors’ Equity Lucy Jordan Humanitarian Award.
Barry Kraft · Dramaturg
In 28 seasons as actor and dramaturg at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Barry has dramaturged nearly 50 Shakespeare productions as well as Equivocation, The Cure at Troy, and Arcadia, among others. Numerous acting credits include OSF, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, the Utah Shakespeare Festival, the Old Globe, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Berkeley Shakespeare Festival, and American Conservatory Theater, among others. He has been in 87 full productions of all Shakespeare’s 38 plays (more than 100 roles). He has written Shakespeare Insult Generator and has recorded several books on tape for Blackstone Audio, including Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Barry is also a teacher and a guest lecturer.
Amy Potozkin, CSA · Casting
This is Amy’s 26th season at Berkeley Rep. Through the years she has also had the pleasure of casting plays for ACT (Seattle), Arizona Theatre Company, Aurora Theatre Company, B Street Theatre, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Dallas Theater Center, Marin Theatre Company, the Marsh, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Social Impact Productions Inc., and Traveling Jewish Theatre. Amy cast roles for various independent films, including Conceiving Ada, starring Tilda Swinton; Haiku Tunnel and Love & Taxes, both by Josh Kornbluth; and Beyond Redemption by Britta Sjogren. Amy received her MFA from Brandeis University, where she was also an artist in residence. She has been an audition coach to hundreds of actors and a presentation/communication coach to many businesspeople. Amy taught acting at Mills College and audition technique at Berkeley Rep’s School of Theatre, and has led workshops at numerous other venues in the Bay Area. Prior to working at Berkeley Rep, she was an intern at Playwrights Horizons in New York. Amy is a member of CSA, the Casting Society of America, and was nominated for Artios Awards for Excellence in Casting for The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures and One Man, Two Guvnors.
Tara Rubin, CSA · Casting
Tara has been casting at Yale Rep since 2004. Her Broadway projects include Bullets Over Broadway; Aladdin; A Time To Kill; Big Fish; The Heiress; One Man, Two Guvnors (U.S. casting); Ghost; How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; Promises, Promises; A Little Night Music; Billy Elliot; Shrek; Guys and Dolls; The Farnsworth Invention; Young Frankenstein; The Little Mermaid; Mary Poppins; Les Misérables; Spamalot; Jersey Boys; The 25th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee; The Producers; Mamma Mia!; The Phantom of the Opera; and Contact. She has cast for the off-Broadway shows Love, Loss, and What I Wore and Old Jews Telling Jokes. Tara has also worked for the Kennedy Center, La Jolla Playhouse, Dallas Theater Center, the Old Globe, Westport Country Playhouse, and Bucks County Playhouse. Her film work includes Lucky Stiff and The Producers.
Michael Suenkel* · Stage Manager
Michael began his association with Berkeley Rep as the stage management intern for the 1984–85 season and is now in his 22nd year as production stage manager. Some of his favorite shows include 36 Views, Endgame, Eurydice, Hydriotaphia, and Mad Forest. He has also worked with the Barbican in London, the Huntington Theatre Company, the Juste Pour Rire Festival in Montreal, La Jolla Playhouse, Pittsburgh Public Theater, the Public Theater and Second Stage Theater in New York, and Yale Repertory Theatre. For the Magic Theatre, he stage managed Albert Takazauckas’ Breaking the Code and Sam Shepard’s The Late Henry Moss.
Megan Messinger · Assistant Fight Director
Steven Sorenson · Assistant Lighting Designer
Maya Linke · Assistant Scenic Designer
James Carpenter* · Duncan / Porter / Doctor
James last appeared at Berkeley Rep in Head of Passes and has performed in over 30 productions at the Theatre during his 12-year tenure as an associate artist. His other Bay Area credits include American Conservatory Theater, Aurora Theatre Company, Cutting Ball Theater, Magic Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Shotgun Players, and TheatreWorks. He is currently in his 12th season as an associate artist with California Shakespeare Theater. His other regional credits include work at Arizona Theatre Company, the Huntington Theatre Company, Intiman Theatre, the Old Globe, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Yale Repertory Theatre. He is the recipient of the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle’s Barbara Bladen Porter Award for Excellence in the Arts and its Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2010 was named a Lunt-Fontanne Fellow. James’ film and TV credits include Nash Bridges, Metro, and The Rainmaker, and the independent projects Presque Isle, Singing, and For the Coyotes.
Scott Coopwood* · Lennox / Understudy Macbeth
Scott’s regional favorites include the title roles in Hamlet, Macbeth, Cymbeline, King John, and Cyrano de Bergerac, as well as Iago in Othello; Edmund in King Lear; Angelo in Measure for Measure; Charlie in The Scene; Kippy in Take Me Out; Shylock in The Merchant of Venice; Jacques in As You Like It; Trigorin in The Seagull; Benedick, Don John, and Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing; Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew; Harry Brock in Born Yesterday; Brennan in Frost/Nixon; Edward in Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me; and Johan in Groundswell. He has performed at Arkansas Repertory Theatre; Artists Repertory Theatre; Capital Repertory Theatre; San Jose Repertory Theatre; Center Repertory Company; Capital Stage; the Utah, Orlando, and Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festivals; Arizona Theatre Company; Marin Theatre Company; Portland Center Stage; the Seattle and Marin Shakespeare Companies; Shotgun Players; and SF Playhouse; as well as work with the Toronto, Windsor, and Oregon Symphony Orchestras. Scott is also co-executive director of Shakespearience!, a Bay Area nonprofit education program for kids.
Derek Fischer · First murderer / Servant to Duncan / Messenger
Derek has been an understudy at Berkeley Rep multiple times and is now excited and honored to be making his official Berkeley Rep debut. He has worked with numerous companies throughout the Bay Area, including SF Playhouse, California Shakespeare Theater, PianoFight, Sleepwalkers Theatre, Town Hall Theatre Company, the Bay One Acts Festival, Cutting Ball Theater, and others. His favorite productions include Storefront Church, Of Mice and Men, The White Plague, The Chairs, The Bald Soprano, and The Pond.
Gene Gillette* · Bleeding captain / Seyton / Lord / Old man
Gene recently completed the national tour of War Horse in which he played Ted Narracot for the National Theatre of Great Britain. Other work includes Thurio in The Two Gentlemen of Verona at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire (Ovation Award) at Theatreworks in Colorado, Padraic in The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Ovation Award) and Bobby Reyburn in Coyote on a Fence (Ovation Award) at Curious Theatre Company, Pale in Burn This at Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Jock in the world premiere of columbinus at Round House Theatre/Perseverance Theatre, the title role in Hamlet at Denver Civic Theatre, Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet and Oliver in As You Like It at Folger Theatre, Branko in Honey Brown Eyes at the Working Theater, and Burke in Anna Christie on a barge in Red Hook, Brooklyn with Spleen Theatre, where he serves as co-artistic director. His TV work includes The Good Wife, Person of Interest, Elementary, and Law & Order: SVU. He holds an MFA from the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Academy for Classical Acting at George Washington University.
Paul Henry · Ensemble
Paul is thrilled to be making his Berkeley Rep debut with Macbeth having previously understudied Pericles, Prince of Tyre and Party People. His recent regional credits include Claudius/Ghost in Hamlet for SF Shakes on Tour; Juan in Man of La Mancha and the Percussionist for Peter and the Starcatcher, both at PCPA - Pacific Conservatory Theatre; The Constable in Fiddler on the Roof at Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre; and Harry Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life: The Musical at Sacramento Theatre Company. Paul holds a BA in Acting from CSU, Fresno and is a graduate of PCPA. You can see Paul this summer as he joins the company of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival in Twelfth Night, Hamlet, and Peter and the Starcatcher. Visit paulhenry.me to learn more.
Conleth Hill* · Macbeth
Conleth is an acclaimed actor on stage, film, television, and radio, as well as a writer and director. His film credits include Perrier’s Bounty, Intermission, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Woody Allen’s Whatever Works, The Shore (Oscar, Best Live Action Short), Shooting for Socrates, The Good Word, A Patch of Fog, The Truth Commissioner, and Two Down. His television credits include Varys in HBO’s award-winning Game of Thrones, Suits, Goodbye Mr. Chips, That Day We Sang, Inside Number Nine, Foyle’s War, Blue Heaven, The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle, and Arthur and George. His theatre credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Whistle in the Dark, Conversations on a Homecoming, Waiting for Godot, The Home Place, and Uncle Vanya, all at Lyric Theatre Belfast. He also appeared at the National Theatre in Democracy, Philistines (Olivier Award nomination), The Seafarer (also Broadway, Tony Award nomination, Drama Desk Award), All’s Well That Ends Well, The White Guard, and The Cherry Orchard. His West End credits include Mel Brooks’ The Producers (Olivier Award), Shoot the Crow, and Quartermaine’s Terms, and his West End and Broadway performance in Stones in His Pockets earned him Irish Times, Olivier, Dora, Drama Desk, Theatre League, Outer Critics Circle, and Whatsonstage.com awards, as well as Theatrical Management Association and Tony Award nominations. Hill has also written for television and theatre, and has directed three productions of David Ireland’s comedy Can’t Forget About You.
Christopher Innvar* · Banquo / Siward / Lord
Christopher is making his Berkeley Rep debut. Other collaborations with Daniel Sullivan include King Lear at the Delacorte Theater and Sharr White’s The Snow Geese for Manhattan Theatre Club. Other NYC credits include Broadway runs of Victor/Victoria, Les Misérables, The Threepenny Opera, 110 in the Shade, The People in the Picture, and Porgy and Bess. Off-Broadway projects include the title role in Floyd Collins at Playwrights Horizons, Chuck Mee’s Big Love at Signature Theatre Company, Simon Stephens’ Harper Regan at Atlantic Theater Company, and lead roles for Red Bull, Transport Group, Lincoln Center, the Women’s Project, and Vineyard Theatre. Regional theatre work includes productions at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the Guthrie Theater, Yale Repertory Theatre, McCarter Theatre Center, and Long Wharf Theatre. He is an affiliated artist with the Shakespeare Theatre Company and a founding associate artist with Barrington Stage Company where his directing credits include The Whipping Man, The Other Place, and Shining City.
Eddie Ray Jackson* · Donalbain / Lord / Soldier
Eddie Ray was last seen at Berkeley Rep in X’s and O’s (A Football Love Story) and reprised his role as Man 4 at Center Stage in Baltimore. He was seen off Broadway at Classic Stage Company in Much Ado About Nothing (Don Pedro). His regional credits include Oregon Shakespeare Festival in The Heart of Robin Hood (Much Miller); Marin Theatre Company in Fences (Cory) and Fetch Clay, Make Man (Muhammad Ali), a coproduction with Round House Theatre; Magic Theatre in Pen/Man/Ship (Jacob); and American Stage Theatre Company in Intimate Apparel (George). Eddie Ray received an MFA in Theatre, acting emphasis, from Columbia University.
Korey Jackson* · Macduff / Lord
Korey is thrilled to be making his Berkeley Rep debut in this production of Macbeth. Other credits include Wild with Happy (the Public Theater), Far from Heaven (Playwrights Horizons), School for Wives (Two River Theater), and Sex of the Baby (Access Theater). Film/TV credits include 5 Flights Up starring Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton (Focus), The Good Wife (CBS), The Following (FOX), Law & Order: SVU (NBC), Homeland (Showtime), Nurse Jackie (Showtime), Royal Pains (USA), and the upcoming second season of Daredevil (Netflix). He is a graduate of NYU’s Graduate Acting Program where he originated the title role in the world premiere of Tony Kushner’s Henry Box Brown Play. He is also a recipient of the Leonore Annenberg Artist Fellowship.
Paul Jennings · Mentieth / Messenger
Paul is delighted to be returning to Berkeley Rep, where he was last seen onstage as the Sturgis Drang understudy in Troublemaker, or the Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright. Recent local credits include Richard III in Dick 3 (San Francisco Theater Pub), Judge Danforth in The Crucible (Custom Made Theatre Co.), Pilate in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, and Jake in H2O (Aluminous Collective). His television credits include John Wayne Gacy in Behind the Screams: Killer Clown. In 2013, Paul was selected as an International Fellow at Shakespeare’s Globe, London.
Billy Eugene Jones* · Ross / Third murderer
Billy’s Broadway credits include A Raisin in the Sun, The Trip to Bountiful, The Big Knife, The Mountaintop, Passing Strange, Radio Golf, and Gem of the Ocean. He appeared off Broadway in Pitbulls (AUDELCO nomination for Best Actor at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater), The Jammer (Atlantic Theater Company), In the Footprint (the Civilians), and Waiting for Godot and Three Sisters (Classical Theatre of Harlem). His regional credits include The Good Negro (Goodman Theatre); Stick Fly (Elliot Norton nomination for Best Supporting Actor at Arena Stage and the Huntington Theatre Company); Richard II, Death of a Salesman, and Breath, Boom (Yale Repertory Theatre); Othello (California Shakespeare Theater); and Spunk (Actors Theatre of Louisville). Other regional credits include Two River Theater, the Alliance Theatre, Hartford Stage, and numerous productions at Dallas Theater Center. Billy is a graduate of Yale School of Drama.
Leon Jones · Macduff’s son
At age seven, Leon began acting in plays such as The Lion King as Rafiki the monkey. While attending California Shakespeare Theater’s Summer Conservatory, he played Edmund in King Lear. He regularly participates in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Oratorical Festival and has performed violin and vocals at Yoshi’s in Oakland. He also performed for Libby Schaaf, mayor of Oakland, at the Education Fund Gala. During his school’s annual concert he conducts up to two pieces. Leon believes he will pursue acting and theatre as a career, and his dream is to be in a Broadway musical. Leon’s hobbies include singing, watching action movies, stage combat, and live plays.
Adam Magill · Malcolm
Adam is making his Berkeley Rep debut. His Bay Area credits include Stupid Fucking Bird (SF Playhouse), The Whale (Marin Theatre Company), The Mousetrap (Shotgun Players), Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (City Lights Theater Company), and Shiner (FaultLine Theater). He is a graduate of the Foothill Theatre Conservatory.
Rami Margron* · Witch / Gentlewoman
Rami is pleased to be returning to Berkeley Rep after playing The Bawd, Batman, and others in Pericles, Prince of Tyre. She has performed locally with California Shakespeare Theater, Crowded Fire Theater, Intersection for the Arts, the Magic Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, Mugwumpin, Pacific Repertory Theatre, Pear Theatre, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Shotgun Players, Town Hall Theatre Company, Willows Theatre Company, Woman’s Will, Word for Word, and a handful of dance companies. She studied acting at the Bennett TheatreLab in San Francisco, clown and buffoon in Paris, and over 20 styles of dance and movement in the U.S., Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, and Indonesia. She is a company member of Crowded Fire and Rara Tou Limen Haitian dance company, and she co-hosts The Shout, a monthly storytelling event in Oakland.
Frances McDormand* · Lady Macbeth / Witch
On Broadway, Frances received the Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for her performance in David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People directed by Daniel Sullivan. Other stage appearances include The Country Girl directed by Mike Nichols on Broadway, Caryl Churchill’s Far Away directed by Stephen Daldry at New York Theatre Workshop, her Tony-nominated performance as Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, The Sisters Rosensweig directed by Daniel Sullivan at Lincoln Center Theater, The Swan at the Public Theater, A Streetcar Named Desire (this time as Blanche) at the Gate Theatre in Dublin, and Dare Clubb’s Oedipus. With the Wooster Group, she performed in To You, The Birdie!, North Atlantic, and Early Shaker Spirituals. Films include The Good Dinosaur, Moonrise Kingdom, Promised Land, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Friends with Money, North Country, Laurel Canyon, Something’s Gotta Give, Almost Famous, Wonder Boys, Madeline, Primal Fear, Short Cuts, Lone Star, Beyond Rangoon, Paradise Road, Mississippi Burning, Hidden Agenda, Darkman, and in collaboration with Joel and Ethan Coen, Burn After Reading, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Fargo (for which she received an Academy Award), Raising Arizona, Blood Simple, and the upcoming Hail Caesar!. With her company Hear/Say, Frances produced Every Secret Thing and Olive Kitteridge (which received eight Emmy Awards including Outstanding Limited Series and Leading Actress) and is developing a screen adaptation inspired by Michael Pollan’s book Omnivore’s Dilemma.
Devin O’Brien · Ensemble
Devin is pleased to be joining Berkeley Rep for the first time. He has recently performed with a host of Bay Area theatres, including Aurora Theatre (Mud Blue Sky), Encore Theatre at Z Space (Hookman), and New Conservatory Theatre Center (Die Mommie Die!). He also serves as a company member with Sonoma Valley Shakespeare. You can see him next at SF Playhouse in Red Velvet. He received his BA in Theatre Arts from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.
Nicholas Pelczar* · Angus / Second murderer
Nicholas is pleased to be making his Berkeley Rep debut. Bay Area credits include Major Barbara, Arcadia, War Music, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and A Christmas Carol at American Conservatory Theater; The Whale, Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, The Whipping Man, Othello, The Glass Menagerie, and boom at Marin Theatre Company; The Pitmen Painters at TheatreWorks; Hamlet and As You Like It at Pacific Repertory Theatre; A Midsummer Night’s Dream at San Francisco Shakespeare Festival; The Lyons, Marius, and Dublin Carol at Aurora Theatre Company; and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Pygmalion, Hamlet, The Tempest, Titus Andronicus, The Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Othello, All’s Well That Ends Well, and The Importance of Being Earnest at California Shakespeare Theater. He is a graduate of ACT’s Master of Fine Arts Program.
Tyler Pierce* · Fleance / Servant / Siward’s son
Tyler appeared at Berkeley Rep in How to Write a New Book for the Bible and Crime and Punishment. He also appeared in King Lear, Henry IV, Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Dracula (Utah Shakespeare Festival); Everything You Touch (Theatre @ Boston Court); How to Write a New Book for the Bible, Death of a Salesman, and Death of the Author (South Coast Repertory); Hasty Pudding (Ojai Playwrights Conference); Handle with Care, The Road to Appomattox, and I’ll be Back Before Midnight (the Colony Theatre); How to Write a New Book for the Bible (Seattle Repertory Theatre); Venus in Fur (B Street Theatre); Good People (Geffen Playhouse); Gronholm Method (Falcon Theatre); Death of a Salesman (the Old Globe); A Streetcar Named Desire (the Guthrie Theater); The Night Is a Child (Milwaukee Repertory Theater and Pasadena Playhouse); Dracula and A Christmas Carol (Actors Theatre of Louisville); Macbeth, Pericles, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lorenzaccio, and The Tempest (the Shakespeare Theatre Company); Youth Inc. (McCarter Theatre Center); and Fat Pig and The Internationalist (the Studio Theatre). Please visit tylerpierce.wix.com/actorsite.
Mia Tagano* · Lady Macduff / Witch
Mia is making her Berkeley Rep debut. Most recently appearing in the West Coast premiere of Love and Information at American Conservatory Theater, she has also performed locally with Magic Theatre (Every Five Minutes), TheatreWorks (M. Butterfly and Loudest Man on Earth), California Shakespeare Theater (The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby and Hamlet), and San Francisco Shakespeare Theatre (Twelfth Night). Her regional stage credits include Tamburlaine and Edward II at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Snow Falling on Cedars at Portland Center Stage and Hartford Stage, and Tantalus, a 10-hour co-production with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Her New York credits include 99 Histories at Cherry Lane Theatre and Far East at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, directed by Daniel Sullivan. Her TV and film credits include All My Children, Law & Order, Tantalus—Behind the Mask, and John Barton’s Shakespeare Sessions. Mia received her MFA in Acting from the University of Washington.
* Denotes a member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
“A riveting experience…Frances McDormand is so thoroughly engrossing a Lady Macbeth, and so unforgettable in her sleepwalking scene…The plot takes full hold in the richly nuanced, intense mutual familiarity of McDormand and [Conleth] Hill…Hill is mesmerizing in the intimate details of Macbeth’s doubts and horrors as he wades ever deeper in blood…This has the makings of a Macbeth for the ages.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Explosive…Throbs with urgency and terror…Grabbing even a jaded modern audience by the throat from the first unholy tableau to the last beheading, Daniel Sullivan’s visceral and urgent production taps into the monstrous depths of human nature, the way people are tainted by violence and corrupted by the lust for power.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
“McDormand is compelling in the sleepwalking scene…Hill humanizes Macbeth’s final act depravity, showing us a man exhausted by his own evil but left with no other choice than to go out fighting…James Carpenter uniquely individualizes three secondary roles—the clueless Duncan, the drunken Porter and Lady Macbeth’s doctor. As Banquo, [Christopher] Innvar so plausibly holds the stage as Macbeth’s equal that I’d like to see his portrayal of the Scottish tyrant one day. Korey Jackson infuses Macduff with a moral glow that galvanizes our rooting interest after Lady Macduff ([Mia] Tagano) and their son (Leon Jones) are brutally slaughtered.”—Los Angeles Times
“In recent seasons the director Daniel Sullivan has become the go-to guy for Shakespeare in the Park…His first-rate productions of Twelfth Night, As You Like It and The Merchant of Venice have all been astutely cast and freshly imagined.”—New York Times
Prologue: from the Artistic Director
Bette Davis famously said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”
Neither is Macbeth.
Shakespeare’s play about a man who murders his way to the throne and then careens toward madness is at once a thinly veiled parable about the court of James I and a violent meditation on conscience. With every ensuing murder Macbeth’s mind erodes, his spirit is corrupted, his heart destroyed. Lady Macbeth, exhorting her conflicted husband to seize the bloody time, falls victim to her own hallucinations and is finally swallowed by darkness. All the while, the world is slipping off its axis: witches utter odd prophecies as the invisible forces of nature become visibly unnatural, a reflection of the chaos created by human beings bent on slaughter. This is a play with few surprises, a lot of blood, and no hint of a happy ending.
But, of course, being a play by Mr. William Shakespeare, the text is replete with spectacular poetry, relentless theatricality, and enough humanity to make us keep watching. Like a great haunted house, we want to see what’s in every room, to take a peek at characters eating through their lives as they wrestle with greed, loyalty, power, sacrifice, and, yes, love.
To conjure such a theatrically dark universe you need artists with tremendous talent, rigorous craft, and unflinching spirit. Happily, we have assembled such a group. Dan Sullivan is one of our great directors, having done almost every play in the canon multiple times. He is flanked by the incomparable duo of Conleth Hill and Frances McDormand, who have graced our lives on the big screen in countless unforgettable performances, but who grace our stage for the first time. Together they lead a small army of superb designers and actors into the forbidden landscape of Macbeth. They aim to take no prisoners.
For our part, we can only hope that any and all parallels to the modern world are not irrevocable, and that our desire to move civilization out of our present darkness and into the light…may yet win the day.
Prologue: from the Managing Director
It’s been quite a season already, and we still have two shows to go. From Amélie to The Hypocrites’ Pirates of Penzance and Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced, followed by Julia Cho’s Aubergine, we’ve done our absolute best to take you on a roller coaster ride of fine theatre—from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the refined to the raw, from irresistible love to unbridled wrath, and from propulsive enthusiasm to quiet contemplation. Now we bring you one of the great plays of the western canon, in a production that features the talents of a remarkable ensemble.
We’ve been very proud of these productions, and you, our audience, have told us that you are more than satisfied. One of the best gifts I was given over the holidays was the call from an audience member who had just seen Disgraced and was moved enough to leave a message with her intense response to the show. She was still thinking about the play after having left the theatre, and it had resonated with her at her very core. This wasn’t the only call or message of thanks, and I count myself as a very lucky person to be the beneficiary of those calls.
Though we’re looking forward to Mary Zimmerman’s Treasure Island and Sarah Ruhl’s For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday, we’ll be announcing—at the beginning of March—some of the shows that will comprise our 2016–17 season. If you’re a subscriber, you’ll be receiving your renewal packets in the mail so you can sign up for another exhilarating season of plays. Don’t put it off!
We do our best to reward our subscribers’ loyalty with flexibility and affordability. We’ve had to turn away folks from sold-out performances this season, but subscribers could rest assured they wouldn’t be left out. And, of course, they enjoy the best prices.
In recent years, it has been heartening to see the growth of our under-30 subscription base, and we’ve even seen growth in attendance among those young couples who are so busily juggling careers and their new families. It is a delight to be the “date night” for couples in search of an adult night away from the kids!
So, in March check your mailbox, your inbox, or Berkeley Rep’s website to discover several shows in our 2016–17 season. Subscribers, renew and guarantee that you will enjoy a program that we expect will be as appealing as what you’ve already seen this year. (We also welcome new subscribers, of course!) Commit to date night with your loved one, family night with more of your loved ones, theatre nights with those friends with whom you’ve been wanting to spend more time, or even a night of quiet reflection by yourself.
Either way, don’t miss out. Join us for next season’s adventure.
The bloody smoking sword
An interview with Director Daniel Sullivan
By Sarah Rose Leonard
Daniel Sullivan is one of America’s most consummate Shakespearean directors. In the past decade he has directed The Merry Wives of Windsor, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, All’s Well That Ends Well, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors, King Lear, and Cymbeline at the Public Theater’s Delacorte Theater in Central Park, and notably transferred his park production of The Merchant of Venice to Broadway in 2010. Sullivan was raised in San Francisco, attended San Francisco State, briefly moved to New York in his 20s, and then found his way to Seattle Repertory Theatre, where he was the artistic director from 1981 to 1997. In the late 1990s he made a permanent move to New York, where he has since worked steadily directing classical work and esteemed new plays on and off Broadway. This production is Sullivan’s first time staging Macbeth, one of Shakespeare’s most famous works. Before rehearsals Literary Manager Sarah Rose Leonard spoke with Dan about the themes of ambition, fear, and madness in the legendarily murderous drama.
Sarah Rose Leonard: Why did you want to direct Macbeth at this point in your career?
Daniel Sullivan: I have seen three or four productions in the last 10 years or so, and I just began to see the play as more interesting than I previously thought it was. Macbeth’s constant questioning of what he’s doing, and that very human flaw of ambition, is something we can all identify with. Ambition draws us; it can become terribly hypnotic and can make us bad. If you make that first step, as Macbeth does, the whole play then is basically consequence. I think that’s dramatically interesting.
Other murderous figures in Shakespeare don’t question their actions—they actually take joy in them, and that’s not something that Macbeth does. He’s simply trying to fix the thing that he’s already put in motion, and it continues to go awry for him. More than anything, there’s a consciousness to him. As he says, “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself…” But the fact is that he still goes forward…in fact, there’s no returning from what he’s done, and I think he knows that.
What do we know about the Macbeths’ relationship to violence before their first murder?
It’s interesting that our introduction to Macbeth is hearing about how he beheaded his rival and stuck his head on a pike. And the very next thing is Lady Macbeth hearing the news and saying he’s got too much of the milk of human kindness. I think we have to understand that this was simply part of the conventions of war—Shakespeare is just trying to say that he was a good soldier. Even in Shakespeare’s time, bodies were drawn and quartered in the town square and hung there for days. So it’s not as though our terror at the idea of beheading was shared by the Elizabethan audience. Her talking about him having the milk of human kindness is, I think, more about what we hear later when he tries to back out of what they have decided to do.
It’s interesting that the scene where he decides to go forward with the murder isn’t in the play—you don’t really know if the murder plot comes from Lady Macbeth or if it comes from him. It’s an interesting omission and you have to sort of guess at it.
Could you share some thoughts on the Macbeths’ marriage—particularly in relation to other Shakespearean romantic pairings? What is usual, or unusual, about their dynamic?
They’re unique in the passion they have for one another. Mired within their murderousness, they are two people taking care of each other. But something happens, and it’ll be an interesting thing to explore—he basically separates from her in terms of his plotting; once he gets the murderers on board to kill Banquo, he is no longer consulting her. And so that partnership starts to wither in some way. We always wonder what it is that drives her crazy because she is so much the instigator. But I think it’s more about him than it is about what she’s done—it’s the thing that she’s unleashed, who in some way she doesn’t recognize anymore—the idea of the milk of human kindness in Macbeth seems to have been buried and she no longer really knows him.
Macduff is often seen as a moral foil for Macbeth. How do you see Macduff functioning in relation to Macbeth?
Macduff is an interesting character because in the scene with Malcolm, he is accepting some of the most egregious things about Malcolm until he finally can’t take it anymore. He ends up looking with huge disappointment at him, but still trying to make it work. There is the politician in Macduff. And the large question is: What happens at the end of the play? Is it really as positive as it states? Is the future politically going to be what it has been—is Malcolm going to end up being a great leader? We’re not quite certain that we’re left in the hands of angels at the end of the play.
There’s this undercurrent of evil no matter who you’re on stage with in the play.
Right. Trustworthiness is very much an issue, from the beginning of the play. We don’t know where Banquo stands. There’s that really interesting scene with Lennox and the lord where you don’t quite know: is Lennox on his side? Is he promoting Macbeth? Is he testing these guys by saying these things? Fear drives so much of the play. The fear of not knowing who your partner is is a huge thing in the play.
How do you make sense of this play given the instability of the medieval Scottish time period?
James came into English royalty as a Scottish king, and the idea of joining England and Scotland together was something that Shakespeare certainly wasn’t going to go against, but there’s an ambivalence in it. What I find so wonderful about Shakespeare is that even though he was able to play up to a king like James, at the same time he left a lot of unanswered questions about what was going to happen in the future.
We’re doing the play in its period, in the Dark Ages. I feel it’s really about the bloody smoking sword. I think that certainly it’s a world that begins to live with a kind of fear that bad things can happen at any time. But I’m not here to underline those themes. I simply feel that we identify with it, as something that’s very much present in our world today.
Can you talk about the role of fate in the play?
Fate is created; it’s not something that exists. One of the things that I disagree with [literary critic] Harold Bloom about in terms of the witches is that they don’t make things happen…I believe they absolutely do. Without them, I don’t think the play would take place.
The witches are the driving force.
Oh, very much so. You can see it as a test—they see this huge ambition in this man, and they promote it. You can see it as some sort of universal, that everyone has this potential; let’s see what we can do to pull it out of him. But they have agency in the play. I don’t think this world would collapse without their pushing it. Macbeth wouldn’t do what he does, I believe, if it weren’t for the seeing eye of the witches knowing what his flaw is, and promoting it from the beginning. I mean, if Macbeth came back from the war and had not met the witches who suggest to him what the future is going to be, would he kill Duncan? I think that’s a big question.
Hail to Thee, Thane of Cawdor!
A primer on medieval Scottish royalty
By Katie Craddock
There are few surviving literary or historical chronicles of the early rulers of Scotland; its early history is almost labyrinthine in its complexity and contestability. We do know that five major tribes—the Picts, Gaels or Scots (who were actually from Ireland), Angles, Britons, and Norsemen—occupied Scotland before they were first unified under Kenneth MacAlpin. Each tribe had its own traditional system for determining its rulers, and these systems were not entirely harmonious. For example, the Picts likely used matrilineal succession, where the Scots did not permit succession through maternal bloodlines. The story of medieval Scottish succession, therefore, is rife with arguments, confusion, and full-on battles.
Kenneth MacAlpin began a royal succession known today as the House of Alpin—17 kings who reigned in Scotland for almost 200 years, from approximately 843 until 1034. The House of Alpin followed tanistry, a Gaelic custom for passing on titles and lands. Under tanistry, the king was elected by family heads in an assembly. The family heads concurrently elected a tanist, or heir-apparent, so if the king died or became unfit to rule, the tanist could become king immediately, avoiding a period of chaos and preventing a dangerous power vacuum. These assemblies mandated that a king must be fully grown and sound of mind and body; once elected, he would rule for the rest of his life. In a significant departure from the English primogeniture system, the tanist was not necessarily the king’s firstborn son; rather, any qualified male relation (brother, cousin, nephew) could be elected. In the case of the House of Alpin, tanist Giric impatiently killed off his predecessor Aed to become king; several others are rumored to have done the same during the first centuries of Scottish royalty.
Scottish society in the High Middle Ages (a period roughly between 900 and 1300) was a legally stratified feudal system. “Laws of the Brets and Scots,” a codification document from the period, describes five castes: king, mormaer, toísech (thane), ócthigern (a non-noble freeman who owned land or livestock), and serf (before the 12th century, Scotland also recognized a sixth group—that of the mug, or slave). The mormaers and thanes had similar roles, though the mormaers ranked above thanes, falling right beneath the king of Scotland. It is generally thought that for the purposes of Macbeth, Shakespeare condensed the classes of mormaers and thanes into merely thanes to describe the rank of characters such as Macbeth and Macduff—one large, noble, land-holding class just below the king filled with nephews and cousins, all of whom could potentially inherit the throne of Scotland. These lords controlled most of Scotland’s northern territory and ruled over their lands like kings of provinces: they were the secular and religious leaders of their territories, supervising law and maintaining order, and had their own warrior societies. They were expected to pay a regular cain, or tribute, to the king of Scotland—usually in the form of weaponry, livestock, and taxes collected from peasants. They were also expected to provide conveth, or food and hospitable accommodations for the king whenever he wished to visit. When required, these lords would give up their local armies in service of the king’s battles and expositions.
The House of Alpin came to an end with Malcolm II, who left no male heirs. Duncan I, the son of Malcolm II’s daughter Bethóc, began the House of Dunkeld. Early in Duncan’s reign, Macbeth was recorded as Duncan’s dux, which could mean both “duke” and “war leader,” implying that Macbeth may have been Duncan’s right-hand military man. When Duncan led an army into Macbeth’s northern domain of Moray, Duncan was killed in battle against Macbeth, and Macbeth succeeded him as king. Duncan followed his relative and predecessor Kenneth MacAlpin and many of the early Scottish kings in burial at the Isle of Iona’s Rèilig Odhrain, an ancient island burial ground off the western coast of Scotland. Macbeth was the last of these kings to be buried on the Isle of Iona after Malcom III, Duncan’s son, killed him.
The gadfly: Meet Macbeth Dramaturg Barry Kraft
By Sarah Rose Leonard
Barry Kraft is a rare breed: He is one of the few Shakespeare dramaturgs on the planet. He has spent the bulk of his professional life—and childhood—immersed in the Bard’s writings as an actor and avid reader. He comes to Berkeley Rep’s production of Macbeth from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where he helps directors, actors, and designers navigate historical context and tricky language. Literary Manager Sarah Rose Leonard talked with Barry about the process of dramaturging a Shakespeare play and the elusive, enduring power of one of his most famous works, Macbeth.
Sarah Rose Leonard: I hear you’ve acted in all 38 of Shakespeare’s plays. Is that correct?
Barry Kraft: I have, and many of them several times.
That’s incredible. How did dramaturgy come into your life?
My first Shakespeare play was when I was 12 years old; it was one of John Carradine’s last Hamlets. He came through my hometown of Laguna Beach with his core company and auditioned locals for the peripheral roles. I was cast as the prologue to the play within a play, The Murder of Gonzago. And I thought, “Shakespeare, wow!” It was life-changing. I started reading, and studying, and seeing, and I was totally imbued with Shakespeare-everything: criticism, amateur productions, listening to it on records; I just couldn’t get enough. And I have a very retentive memory, so much of Shakespeare stayed in my head. And as the years and decades went by, I became a font of knowledge (sometimes unwelcome, sometimes welcome).
It was back in the end of the ‘92 season, Henry Woronicz, who was the artistic director of OSF (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), said, “How would you like to be a dramaturg?” I guess somebody had talked to him and said, “Kraft’s very helpful in rehearsals.” So he said, “Why don’t you—” because they didn’t have an official dramaturg then—“Why don’t you be [our] dramaturg?” So I said to Henry, “What’s that?” And Henry said, “I don’t know either, but we’re going to find out together,” which I loved. And I said, “But I want to keep on acting!” There’s a thing in our culture—very seldom are you allowed to be a recognized practitioner in two different fields. They say, “You’re this, so you can’t be that.” It’s really awful—instead of widening the horizons, they squeeze them in on you. And I said, “We’ll find out what a dramaturg is, but I still want to act.” Just imagine if someone had said to Shakespeare 400 years ago, “You can only be one of these: an actor, a poet, a playwright, or a shareholder in the Globe Theatre—now choose!” How much poorer his life would have been!
For many seasons at OSF, I would take a small part in a play, like John of Gaunt in Richard II, and I would dramaturg it at the same time—or the Poet in Timon of Athens. So the shift was very gentle. So after a time I said to myself, “I’ve acted in all the plays. Why not just focus on dramaturgy?” It’s a shorter gig and leaves more time for travel and other interests.
When you’re dramaturging a show, whether or not you’re acting in it, how do you prepare for the production?
With Shakespeare, the big difference is that half of his plays are published in at least two forms (usually just two—the early quartos during his lifetime, except for Othello, and then the great first folio in 1623 that contains 36 of the plays, half of them never before published). With many of those plays, there are gigantic differences in the original texts. So the first thing I do with those plays that have two or more original forms is I make a parallel examination and highlight each instance of what I think is a meaningful difference. It could be in just a wording, it could be in the character who’s saying the speech—whenever there’s a difference between quarto and folio, I put it out on paper and then present it to the director. Before we start we decide which of these choices, quarto or folio, we might want to do. Now, in the case of Macbeth, there’s only one source, it’s just the folio. There I don’t do a quarto/folio comparison, but I of course read, and reread, the play minutely.
Then I make notes of the meanings of the words—I use anywhere from five editions to 17, as when I dramaturged King Lear. I try to find the clearest definition of obsolete words or allusions that the actors can use. And if a couple, or several, editors disagree about the meaning, I gather all of those meanings so the director, the actor, and I can collaborate on what is actually being said at that precise moment, for the needs of that specific production.
When you’re in the rehearsal room, what are you focusing on?
One of the things I do is usually sit next to the director and listen to the questions that the actors come up with, and I will give an answer when it seems appropriate. Sometimes it’s hard for dramaturgs in the room to do that, because the director and the actor are hot at it, and the dramaturg has something to say that lends light, but it’s very hard sometimes to break in on the director-actor conversation. I call myself a “gadfly” at the Festival, and I base it on Socrates’ defense, “I’ve been charged with corrupting the youth of Athens. I haven’t done any such thing; Athens is like a very large and lazy horse, and what I do is go in like a gadfly and pester it, and I ask questions, and I make the city answer, and in the end you may swat me and kill me”—which, of course, they did; he had to drink the hemlock—“and then you’ll go on sleeping for the rest of your life.” So sometimes what I have actually done, after I’ve told the director I’m a bit of a gadfly, I’ll go, “Bzzzz!” And they can say, “Not now!” or whatever, but they know the dramaturg has something to offer at that moment. Most of the directors I’ve worked with many, many times, I have an ease with about knowing when to come in.
Do you find historical context important for Shakespeare’s plays?
It really depends on the specific play. In a play like Macbeth, I’m reading Holinshed’s Chronicles, realizing that Shakespeare had two different stories, with names slightly changed, about the murder of the king and the retribution. I find that fascinating. A prince of a scholar, Alan Dessen, told me decades ago, “When you’re looking, Barry, at the original source and what Shakespeare did, it’s fun to see where Shakespeare copies slavishly, but it’s far more interesting to see where he alters his source to interject his own viewpoint.” So far, the most interesting thing I’ve found in the Holinshed is that the Macbeth character was competently on the throne for 10 years after having murdered his predecessor. So you think, “What does Shakespeare achieve by having these events take place over no more than a year or two, enough time for Macbeth to make himself a tyrant who everybody hates and wants to depose? What does that mean in terms of speed of the play?” So with the historical context for Macbeth, I’m interested in the court of James, the witch trials, James’ interest in witches, Banquo, and James being a descendant of Banquo and all of that—the equivocation, the trials of the Gunpowder Plot—all of that stuff.
What’s something you’ve learned about Macbeth that’s surprised you?
It must’ve been Jonathan Bate who made the observation that, unlike Romeo and Juliet, Othello, King Lear, and Hamlet, Macbeth dies isolated from his nearest and dearest. Romeo and Juliet are practically in each other’s arms; Othello is strangling the object of his love; King Lear is holding his daughter in his arms; and Horatio is right there at the final seconds, receiving the injunction from Hamlet, “And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,/To tell my story.” But Lady Macbeth dies isolated, and Macbeth dies isolated from her, and I thought, yes, that is surprising. It’s obvious, but I had never considered it before.
What is a burning question you have about this play right now?
I’m thinking about the movie American Sniper. It’s the story of a soldier—a man who is eminently good at picking off the enemies, and then he comes home and he can’t find a way to interject himself into peacetime society, his family, and friends. I think this is the story of war. This play of Macbeth is so troublesome to me—it’s a burning question of how you can go off and kill, in hand-to-hand combat, so many humans, and get such high praise for doing so, and then come back and say, “Well, why is it bad now? If I perceive this person to be my enemy, and I could be king—as I seem fated to be—why is it a bad thing to exercise my skill in taking him off?” And this is why it’s deeply troubling to me. I was a conscientious objector—I refused induction during the Vietnam War—but I’ve been thinking about war and warfare all of my life. How do you go from being a killer of human beings, with ease, to ingratiating yourself in society and saying, “No, that is a wrong activity now, even though it was right before, and it could be right again”?
Pleasing a new monarch with a new play
By Barry Kraft
Early in the play, three wayward/weïrd sisters encounter the Scottish warriors Macbeth and Banquo and speak predictions “of noble having and of royal hope” to Macbeth. Banquo, feeling more than a bit neglected, demands of them, “If you can look into the seeds of time/And say which grain will grow, and which will not,/Speak then to me.” The remainder of the play sprouts from the growth of the seeds planted, or foreseen, by those three strange women. “The seeds of time” is a resonant phrase, meaning in part the sources of future events.
If poet-playwright William Shakespeare had the power of looking into the seeds of time, what might he have seen upon the death of Queen Elizabeth on March 24, 1603? For starters he would have seen (as would practically everyone else) the smooth ascension of the 36-year-old King James VI of Scotland to the throne—thus becoming King James I of England. But could Shakespeare have foreseen that the new King would prove to be even more fond of the theatre than Elizabeth was, and that within two months of donning the crown, James would bring Shakespeare’s acting company directly under his royal patronage?
Actually “royal protection” rather than “royal patronage” would be a more precise term to describe the connection between court and theatre. If London’s city magistrates had their way, there would be no theatre at all: players and playgoers, they firmly believed, were elements of a sinful, dirty business—the Devil’s domain. Only by means of the useful fiction that the plays performed at public theatres were extended rehearsals, practice trials to prepare the works for court consumption, was theatre permitted to exist. However, only when performing at court before the King (usually during holiday seasons) would the King’s Men—as Shakespeare’s company would come to be known—receive lavish royal rewards for their efforts. All other times the company had to rely on gate receipts to make ends meet.
We imagine that Shakespeare, motivated by necessity and curiosity, began to enquire into the habits, history, likes, and dislikes of this new English monarch, two years his junior. He studied his quarry with a keen eye. For instance, James had been heard to say that he disliked long plays, and eyewitnesses had observed him slumbering through them. Duly noted.
Then there was the royal practice of “touching for the King’s Evil.” From the time of Edward the Confessor (1042) the condition of the “King’s Evil”—tuberculosis of the lymph nodes in the neck—was allegedly cured by the laying on of royal hands. King James was always pleased to exercise this power. Duly noted.
And what about genealogy, family trees? King James I boasted to have traced his royal Scottish lineage from a (mythical) Banquo’s (mythical) son Fleance, on up to himself. Duly noted.
More importantly, there was the matter of witchcraft. James had an almost morbid fascination with witches, witch trials, witchcraft. He believed that his own life and concerns had been put into jeopardy on several occasions through the agency of witch sorcery. He had attended witch trials, avidly cross-examined and testified against supposed witches, and had administered capital punishment to the unfortunate women his courts found guilty of practicing witchcraft. In 1597, James wrote and published his own contribution on the subject: Demonology, in Form of a Dialogue. Duly noted.
All well and good. But now, how were these disparate duly noted Jamesian threads to be knotted together into an actual and actable performance piece that would be well received by the monarch? It might seem that one crucial element was missing—the plot. Creating a storyline was never a problem for Shakespeare: he simply hitched his imagination and poetic skill to whatever readily available vehicle he fancied—be it another author’s play, poem, tale, biography, history, etc.—and drove off in his own direction. Only a handful of the 40 plays he wrote, or occasionally collaborated upon, feature an original plot. (In today’s world, the Bard would be behind bars for plagiarism.) Plot creation wasn’t his skill: what he did with plots was!
In the case of Macbeth, he dipped back into a favorite source he had often used for his English history plays—Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, 2nd edition, 1587. Shakespeare lifted most of the facts of Macbeth’s career from Holinshed’s history, but for details of the murder of King Duncan he substituted Holinshed’s account of the murder of an earlier Scottish king. Shakespeare’s most dynamic alterations of the chronicle history were to severely truncate and blacken Macbeth’s 10 years of well-governed ruling over Scotland following Duncan’s murder, and to make the character of Banquo—King James’ ancestor—innocent, when in Holinshed he was chief amongst Macbeth’s “trusty friends” who aided him in dispatching Duncan.
In mid-autumn of 1605 a near catastrophe almost claimed the lives of King James, his family, his ministers, and the members of both houses of Parliament. Its aftermath would give Shakespeare the focus he needed to coalesce all of the observed Jamesian threads into a compelling dramatic unity.
A small group of Catholic gentlemen, embittered by King James’ failure to extend toleration to adherents of their faith, saw to it that a vault situated beneath the House of Lords was packed with 36 barrels of gunpowder along with iron bars. On November 4, the night before James was to appear in person to open a new session of Parliament, conspirator Guy Fawkes was arrested in the vault with all the implements needed to blow the whole shebang sky high. Under excruciating torture, Fawkes gave the names of his co-conspirators who were then hunted down, tortured, tried (with the King watching the judicial proceedings unobserved), then hanged and quartered.
The link to Macbeth was the last man to be hanged. Father Henry Garnet, a Jesuit priest, knew of the Gunpowder Plot, but under constraint of the Catholic seal of the confessional was silenced from speaking out. A handful of years before James was crowned King of England, Garnet had written A Treatise of Equivocation which justified the morality of giving misleading or ambiguous statements under oath. To equivocate, to juggle words with multiple meanings so as to avoid incriminating oneself, or revealing the secrets of the confessional, or committing the sin of lying under oath was defensible behavior, Garnet believed.
In a flash Shakespeare must have realized his own art was that of the equivocator: from the lowest pun to the highest flights of metaphor, duplicity was the stock of his trade, the marrow of his being. Hence, as well as peppering his new play with references to equivocation, he fashioned the very fabric of Macbeth out of the material of duplicity, of doubleness.
We can hope his new play (probably performed at court in the summer of 1606), was amply rewarded by King James. For if Shakespeare was able to look into the seeds of time, he would have seen an outbreak of plague that summer which would effectively close the theatres for the following two and a half years.
Might this have been the origin of the curse said to haunt Macbeth?
Behind the scenes: Macbeth
Hear more about Macbeth from some of the cast!
Get a peek at the Bard’s most notorious play, featuring Conleth Hill and Frances McDormand.
Toil and trouble
Meet the witches in Macbeth!
At the Commonwealth Club
Actors Conleth Hill and Frances McDormand discussed Macbeth and more with Michael Leibert Artistic Director Tony Taccone at the Commonwealth Club of California on February 8, 2016.
Something wicked on TV
Hark! Our TV spot for Macbeth arrives.
Photos courtesy of kevinberne.com
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Are you a Shakespeare nut? You’ve come to the right spot.
- An extensive biography of Shakespeare from Encyclopedia Britannica.
- Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in England has an excellent list of online resources for further reading about the playwright, early English texts, performance projects, and online journals.
- An overview of the play from the Folger Shakespeare Library, our national resource on all things Shakespeare, located in DC.
- Sir Ian McKellen takes us through a Macbeth monologue in a master class on speaking Shakespeare that aired on British TV in 1979.
- The second season of this delightful and hilarious TV show about a fictional Shakespeare Festival in Canada follows a production of Macbeth.
Dramaturg Barry Kraft’s reading list
Macbeth dramaturg Barry Kraft recommends the following books for the Shakespeare enthusiast. The titles are accompanied by notes from Barry.
- This book came out in 1939. It’s an essay per play, and they are marvelous; they are stylistically beautiful and filled with wonderful insight—sometimes incorrect, but really worth a read.
- For Shakespeare’s life and work, I would recommend Contested Will. It’s an answer to the Oxfordians, and the Baconians, and everybody who believed someone else wrote Shakespeare’s works. Shapiro goes through, with kindness, insight, and humor, and demolishes their position. We learn so much about Shakespeare the theatre man when reading Contested Will.
- This was written back in the 1940s. Webster was a producer; she worked with Maurice Evans often, and she has a chapter per play, and it just cuts the edge—what to avoid as a director or actor, what to embrace, what to look for—and her essays, one per play, are a bit old-fashioned, but still worth the read.
- When I was young, I devoured his preface on Hamlet. Harley Granville-Barker is that rare combination of a theatre director, a critic, and a playwright himself. In fact, he’s very much like Shakespeare in that way, who was a part theatre owner, a poet, a playwright, and an actor—and an expert in all of those fields. The theatre is always deeply embedded in Harley Granville-Barker’s criticism, and he’s a great stylist as well.
- This is a beautiful little book. The first chapter, I think, is called “On Not Reading Shakespeare”—are we bamboozled by this man? He’s a delightful stylist.
- I love Shakespeare in Love; Tom Stoppard is my favorite living British playwright.
Docent talks and discussions
Pre-show docent talks
Meet us in the Theatre an hour before the show on Tuesdays and Thursdays for an engrossing presentation about your subscription-season play. Hear about the playwright’s perspective, dive into the historical context, and discover why the script is relevant right now. Each 30-minute talk includes plenty of time for your questions.
Post-show docent-led discussions
Join your fellow audience members after all matinees and share your thoughts on the show.
Teen Night gives local teens the opportunity to meet for dinner and a behind-the-scenes discussion with a member of the artistic team before attending each subscription-season production at an extremely discounted price.
- Friday, February 19, 2016
Cap off your night with us after select evening performances throughout the season and sample wine, spirits, and other culinary delights from local vendors—all for FREE! Samplings begin immediately following the performance.
- Saturday, February 27, 2016
Special thanks to our Last Call event sponsor: Berkeleyside Nosh.
Stick around after select performances for lively Q&A sessions with our artists on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights.
- Thursday, March 10, 2016
- Tuesday, March 15, 2016
- Friday, March 25, 2016