by Kathleen Poe
Let me begin by saying that it is always a pleasure to work on Shakespeare. Whether it is the timeless nature of his stories or the delicious taste of his words dripping off my tongue, I have had a lifelong love affair with the Bard.
Specifically, this play. Macbeth.
We read it aloud in my 10th-grade English class. I can still remember reading the part of Banquo and falling in desperate love with the story, the characters, the themes, the verse – all of it. We delighted in the Witches and their super-rad (to coin a term from high school) prophecy, we marveled at the wild, audacious ambition of the Macbeths, and we cheered for the miracles of nature that bring the story to its unexpected conclusion.
We laughed at “I am slain”, as you do. To be honest, I’m still laughing at it. The ridiculousness of announcing one’s own death never ceases to send me into a fit of giggles.
(Side note: as I am now a veteran of dying a Shakespearean death, I far prefer, “Thou hast slain me”. It just hits differently.)
I spent my late teenage years obsessed with The Scottish Play. During my junior year, in my English class, we were asked to write a diary of a famous person, and I chose Macbeth. That summer, I spent my babysitting money to go see a production of Macbeth at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego. It was amazing. They performed it in the round, and I was up close and personal. The Witches pounded thick ropes on the stage while giving their prophecies, and one of them ended up in my lap (the ropes, not the Witches). Mac and Lady M swapped an outrageous amount of spit. I was even more enthralled. How could I not be enthralled? I promise it wasn’t because of the spit.
In college, I took a Shakespeare class that only fueled my fire. Not only did I passionately love Macbeth, but now that adoration stretched to King Lear, Henry V, and Richard II (it took longer for me to love Hamlet, to be honest, but now I do, with all my heart).
When I first started doing Shakespeare on the stage, about eleven years ago, I couldn’t believe that I got to speak those words, and actual people would come to see and hear me do it. I also couldn’t get enough. I’ve now done 18 Shakespeare plays. Yes, 18.
Including my favorite – Macbeth.
But, strangely, up to this summer, I’ve never been able to participate in a fully staged, full-scale production of Macbeth.
My first experience was in a staged reading that we performed on Halloween. I read the role of the First Witch, and I couldn’t believe that I got to speak those words – “Double, double, toil and trouble”. That experience kept my Macbeth fire blazing.
A few years later came two nights as Macduff and the Second Witch, as part of our all-female Wildflower Women’s Ensemble. We performed in a park in midtown, with minimal staging, surrounded by traffic noises, beer bikes, and live, amplified, tonally suspect covers of Beatles tunes blaring from the café across the street. Despite the less-than-ideal circumstances, it was a wonderful experience. I dearly loved playing Macduff and hoped for another chance at the role.
I got another crack a few years later, during the pandemic, when we put together an online version of The Scottish Play, complete with online sword choreography. It was an optimistic idea that didn’t quite work, but we gave it a good try. Whatever the case, it kept me in contact with my most cherished of all Shakespeare plays.
And now, here we are – the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival 2023. Macbeth, Macduff, we meet again…
When we first started our tech run-through on Saturday, some of us were dancing around backstage, almost giddy with excitement, as we saw the world that we’ve been working so hard to create begin to take a more complete and vibrant visual form.
Good grief – the colors are going to be spectacular (and I’m not just talking about the vivid bruises on my arms from sword battles and stage combat)!
I am floored by the talent involved in this project, both offstage and on. It is such a thrill to be a part of it, and to share the stage with such amazing, hard-working actors. How lucky I am.
In a way, this is some intense full-circle stuff for me. It is my lifetime obsession come to fruition.
And I can’t freakin’ wait for everyone to see it.