Watch and wricgjdte about the Gemma Bodinetz directed production of Macbeth staged by the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. You may decide you want to refresh your memory a little, so you can always watch it again, or there are several other versions on the site. Either way, make sure you have a good idea of what happens in the play and try to find some of the major themes and ideas at work in it. Remember the analysis essay I made you write a few weeks ago? It’s going to come in very handy now.
STEP TWO: Get Creative
This part is where your work really comes in. Your assignment is to come up with your own original concept for a hypothetical production of Macbeth. And I know what some of you are saying: How the hell am I supposed to do that?
Don’t worry, I’m going to lay it out for you. Essentially, this assignment is about doing a little bit of the work a director, a producer, a costume designer, and a set designer would do on a production.
The Concept a Director chooses for a production comes down to how they interpret the play. For a great example, go to page 139 in Chapter 6 of your textbook. There you will see a photo from a Royal Shakespeare Production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, which is the story of how Brutus and Cassius, two of Julius Caesar’s close friends and allies, conspired to murder Caesar before he became mad with power and became a dangerous dictator. So, some of the major Themes of that play are power, civic responsibility, envy, conspiracy, and political assassination. Director Gregory Doran’s concept was to set his production in Modern Day Africa, because many people saw the Themes of the play as being relevant to the political situation in some African countries. Therefore, although this play was originally set in Ancient Rome, with actors wearing Roman clothing, the actors in this particular production were dressed as if it they were in an African country, and the music and costumes also matched this Concept.
So after you watch Macbeth and identify the major themes, where would you choose to set the play? In the modern world of Wall Street Finance? The locker room of an NBA team in the 1990s? A cattle ranch in 19th Century Argentina? It’s entirely up to you and where your mind takes you.
NOTE: There is one thing you can’t do. NO GODFATHER/GOODFELLAS/MAFIA adaptations. It’s a little too easy and if I allowed it I might be grading 40 of them, so you have to find something different.
You can also choose to Adapt Macbeth into something new. To Adapt the play means to keep the basic story and themes, but to change other elements to suit the story in a different style. The best example of a Shakespeare adaptation I can think of is West Side Story by Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, and Stephen Sondheim. It’s the plot of Romeo and Juliet, but the action is moved to the West Side of Manhattan and deals with warring street gangs, and the writers do away with Shakespeare’s lines and replace them with their own lines, music, and lyrics. (If you want to research a couple film adaptations of Macbeth that do something similar with the story and setting, check out the films Throne of Blood, Men of Respect and Scotland, PA.)
STEP THREE: The Look of the Production
Once you’ve figured out where and when you want to set the play, the next step is to figure out what the play will look like. What style of dress will best suit this story? If you decide to set this play, for example, a Greek Orthodox monastery during World War II, what clothing would the characters be wearing?
You need to provide at least one image of your concept, which you can find somewhere or draw yourself. If you’re looking for more information on Costume Design, check out the discussion I posted and the video attached. You can also check out Chapter 9 of your textbook.
Next, figure out what the Set might look like. If you chose to set the play, for example, on a Mississippi plantation during the American Civil War, what might that environment look like? Again, provide at least one image, and you can source it or draw it yourself. For more ideas, look at the Discussion I posted earlier in the semester and the video with it, and you can also check out Chapter 8 of the textbook.
STEP FOUR: The Details
Once you’ve decided on your concept, and laid out why you made this choice, make sure you cover the following things:
- How will your idea deal with The Witches aka The Weird Sisters?
Macbeth is the story of a man who is driven to murder his King and take the throne for himself, but the entire story is kick-started by his chance encounter with three Witches who tell him that his destiny is to become King, and that his friend Banquo is destined to be the father of an entire line of Kings. So the question is, Would Macbeth have done anything to hurt Duncan, the King, if the Witches hadn’t put the idea in his head? Witches make sense in the world of the play as Shakespeare wrote it, but if your idea is set in the modern world, where Witches make far less sense, how are you going to Adapt this element of the story which is so important to the plot?
- Cast the Major Characters.
Have fun with it. If time, money, and everything else was no issue, who would you like to see playing Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Duncan, and MacDuff in your own hypothetical conceptualization of this play?
- How do we do this play in a COVID-19 world WITHOUT using Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts etc.
Why am I not letting you do this play the same way we’ve done classes this entire semester? Remember the fundamental difference between theater and all other dramatic media: theater is about a live and alive connection between the audience and the performer and a play done over the computer isn’t live no matter what we do.
So, how do we do your idea in a way that maintains the LIVE AND ALIVE nature of theater, but also avoids dangerous crowds and the potential for an outbreak? Does that sound really hard to figure out? Of course it is, and I don’t expect you to solve a public health crisis in your Final Project for Intro to Theater. All I want to see is that you are making an honest effort to be creative in tackling a very difficult problem facing the entire theater world in general.
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