That’s right - it’s time for another rehearsal update! Before turning to table work and blocking, our cast combined our collective efforts to brainstorm the ideas in Macbeth that seemed to stand out and warrant extra attention when we stage the show.
The first step was to come to the table with thematic ideas and motifs that interested us; among them were power, fate, paranoia, hands, children, sleep, and more. (Pretty standard stuff, if you’ve read or seen Macbeth.) But the more difficult task was to order them and figure out what we thought was the most important out of these options. Our director, Nick Tash, was also interested in two additional aspects of the play: animal and nature imagery. Each member of the cast searched through their specific lines to find words and phrases related to nature or which mentioned any type of animal, and we made a master list of almost 30 nature words and almost 40 distinct animals. The chalkboard in our studio theatre rehearsal space had never been so packed!
Our cast was also tasked with finding photographs or pieces of artwork that reminded us of the aesthetics or thematic imagery in the show. Nick asked everyone to think specifically of locations that weren’t necessarily literal (no Scottish heaths to be found) but more metaphorically-related. For example, Izzy Chilian, who we interviewed back during our mask-work week, brought in a printed photograph of a crumbling living room, complete with peeling paint and demolished ceilings, the furniture still in place but covered in debris; Shelby Lewis, our Lady Mackers, brought in an image of a long, sterile, black-and-white hallway. As each cast member brought in their images, they explained the significance or thought process behind them - and with our images displayed on a posterboard in the space, we’ll always have them to refer back to and draw inspiration from.
Once we had our preliminary brainstorming finished, Nick split the cast into two groups and assigned us a task: stage a composition of our assigned half of Macbeth, using our themes, motifs, nature and animal imagery, photo inspirations, and excerpts from the text - along with the caveat that we needed to also include superstitions and excerpts or references to King James’ Demonology text. Our compositions could be literal, chronological productions of our half of the show OR they could be more interpretive, and we were encouraged to play with gestures, tempo, levels, repetition, and all the other viewpoints we’d worked on so far. Materials at our disposal were the playing space of studio theatre, some plastic tarps, skeins of red yarn, PVC piping and connectors, a roll of white butcher paper, a variety of light sources, and anything we could find in the basement, plus anything we wanted to bring ourselves.
I sat down with Nick before rehearsal last week to ask him about his thought process behind our week of composition work.
We’ve done shorter compositions before, with monologues from Comedy of Errors or thematic ideas in As You Like It. What made you interested in giving us such large sections of the text to work with this time?
Nick: Mostly because I wanted you guys to become more involved in the conceptual creation of the show and be more involved in that side of things than you’ve been in the past. It’s important to me, as we’re trying to do these newer things, that the cast and the people in the show have a greater say in what the show ultimately looks like, sounds like, how it’s lit, that kind of thing. I also thought the more material I threw at you, given the short amount of time that you had to work with it, that it might generate some ideas. The main thing is that I want you guys to become more involved in the entire process of the creative process, not just siloed off into one specific aspect, if that makes sense.
Are there any elements of the compositions (so far) that surprised you or made you think about new ideas specifically?
Nick: Yes, definitely. Like, a lot of new ideas. The things that surprised me the most are the approaches that you guys have taken to staging important moments. And it definitely gave me a lot of ideas for what we can do that I never thought of. For instance - the weird master of fate character [from one of the compositions] is such an interesting invention, and I never would have thought of that. One group’s was also interesting because of how well you utilized the yarn and created a mirror image of sorts between the natural and supernatural worlds. The most exciting thing that I’ve gotten from this, actually, is how you all have used the literal materials I provided, which was basically string, paper, and plastic.
Thanks for the chat, Nick!
After time to work in our individual groups, we performed the compositions for the whole cast and, after doing some table work, returned to them last Friday to combine both groups’ creations into one cohesive whole. This required more than just stitching together a transition from one half of the play to the other - our groups worked together to incorporate aspects of the first group’s half with aspects from the second group’s half of the play. Obviously the real show won’t be staged in exactly this manner, but doing compositions like this helped to encourage ensemble cohesion as well as brainstorm ideas and ways of playing with the space and with materials that we can capitalize on once we start our blocking this week.
Tune in next time for another update (and an interview with our Mackers and Lady M) once we get further into the blocking process later this month, as well as a spooky feature on Jacobean-era witchcraft! For now, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and keep your calendar free in November/December so you can come see our ideas come to fruition live on the stage.