Demystifying Macbeth with the Plainfield Little Theatre

Starting March 15th, the Plainfield Little Theatre presents the tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare at the Plainfield Town Hall Opera House.

Director Tom Blachly has a long history with Shakespeare, first as a young actor performing the role of Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in a school production directed by Bill Blachly, Tom’s father, and later as  Prospero in The Tempest, Malvolio in Twelfth Night, and Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and roles in Macbeth; The Two Gentlemen of Verona; Henry IV, Part 1; Othello; Much Ado About Nothing; Richard III; A Winter’s Tale; and Henry V, where he played the lead.

Blachly has also directed numerous Shakespeare plays: Measure for Measure; Loves’ Labors’ Lost; Cymbeline; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; The Merry Wives of Windsor; Romeo and Juliet; King Lear; The Tempest; Henry IV, Part 1; The Taming of the Shrew; and All’s Well that Ends Well.

About 10 years ago, Blachly, together with Peter Young and local theater and opera director Naomi Flanders, launched a summer acting and performance program called Shakespeare in the Hills – an opportunity for young people to rehearse and perform Shakespeare’s plays.

This week, Blachly talked with The Bridge about his upcoming production of Macbeth.

Matthew Grant Winston as Macbeth

The Bridge: What were you looking for in the person who would play Macbeth?

Tom Blachly: A talented actor with a good range and intensity—someone I knew would be committed to learn the lines and do the role. It’s a very challenging role. It requires a large range of emotions.

And those emotions?

TB: The actor has to have great ambition. He has to want to be kind. He has to have a great imagination. He sees things that aren’t there—such as a dagger that isn’t there and a ghost who isn’t there. He has to believe in the supernatural. He has to make the supernatural real and accessible to an audience who may not believe in the supernatural. It’s a challenging role also because Macbeth does horrible things. He’s a serial killer. You’re caught up in his very bloody journey.

Do you see Macbeth as a tragic figure who falls from high to low estate, suffers the consequences, and struggles to understand his ruin?

TB: Yes, I think so. Macbeth is a noble individual. He’s a great warrior. He distinguishes himself in battle. He’s made Thane of Cawdor for his warring exploits. I think his tragedy shows us someone who really understands the negative consequences of his actions. He can’t help himself, or he’s the victim of dark forces outside of his control, or he feels compelled to follow his wife’s urgings.

He stands alone on the stage and speaks to us in a soliloquy, a powerful theater mechanism. He confides in us. Unwittingly or not, we become co-conspirators with him. He weighs the justice of  what he is doing—to kill or not to kill the king. He talks himself out of the deed. Then pursues the deed. Even when he decides to kill the king, he confides in us and exposes his dilemma. It’s very powerful.

Sorsha Anderson as Lady Macbeth

Please tell us about the woman playing Lady Macbeth.

TB: Lady Macbeth is obviously a crucial role. I very much lucked out in getting a terrific actor who is taking the role. She’s got a lot of Shakespearean experience. She was a professional actor in her younger years. She got busy raising a family. She played the ingénue. She showed up and played the Countess in our production of All’s Well That Ends Well.

And the chemistry between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?

TB: They have sunk themselves into their roles. We have deep discussions about their roles and what motivates them.  This is one of Shakespeare’s bloodiest plays.

Don’t you think we have blood enough in our world at the moment with bombing, shootings, thousands of people running for their lives?

TB: Shakespeare doesn’t shy away from the world as it is, a world that’s not what we would like it to be. Shakespeare reflects back to us the world we see. The violence in his plays is not gratuitous. It’s there for a reason.

Macbeth is a tragedy in the classic sense—in the sense that violence is cathartic. We feel that the evil of the kingdom is purged and that order is restored. That’s not a bad thing to feel, that order can return. Macduff’s family has been slaughtered. And it’s Macduff’s killing of Macbeth that purges the kingdom.

In lines that speak to us today, Malcolm, who takes the Scottish throne after Macbeth is killed, says to Macduff about the slaughter of his children, “Be this the whetstone of your sword. Let grief convert to anger. Blunt not the heart, enrage it.”

This makes me think of the kids in Florida who are saying, “We’re not going to take this anymore. We’re going turn our grief into anger.”

Final thoughts?

TB: I feel so privileged every night to be there and hear these local actors getting their lines and their mouths around this poetry and exquisite imagery. Shakespeare’s images are so extraordinary. He creates these wild images in your mind. When he was writing Macbeth he was  as the top of his game—the language, the soaring language.

 

Showtime Information

The Plainfield Little Theatre is presenting the tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare with performances beginning on March 15 at the Plainfield Town Hall Opera House, 18 High Street (US Route 2) in Plainfield. Performances will be presented on March 15, 16, and 17 and also on March 22, 23, and 24 at 7 pm. There will be two Sunday afternoon matinee performances on March 18 and 25 at 2 pm.

The cast and company of Macbeth numbers some 25 actors, including Matthew Grant Winston as Macbeth and Sorsha Anderson as Lady Macbeth,  and half a dozen support staff, such as Robbie Harold as dramaturge, Lori Stratton as stage manager, Carol Rogstad-Meunier as costumer; Ellen Cooke as choreographer; Trevor Tait as fight instructor; and Joe John as set designer.

For ticket information, please call 229-5290 or send an e-mail message to blachly@together.net

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