Wherefore art thou, Shakespeare? Charlotte
“Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn, and cauldron bubble.” A sinister prophecy will impact Charlotte County high school students just in time for Halloween.
Asolo Repertory Theatre is presenting three performances of an adapted version of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” to Charlotte High, Port Charlotte High, and Lemon Bay High schools on Oct. 30 and 31. The play was condensed into 45 minutes and will be followed by a show discussion. The entire event takes place over the course of an hour — or one class period.
“Learning Shakespeare is required as part of language arts curriculum, but it was designed to be performed,” said Kelli Bragdon, education associate for Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota. “When the children see it on stage, they understand it better and are more likely to be impacted by the work.”
The series of plays is part of an educational initiative by Asolo called the New Stages Tour, a two-month excursion where the production company travels to schools and community organizations across the state. Last year, the company performed at 36 venues with a total audience of about more than 12,0000 people.
“The idea is that people of all backgrounds, especially young people, have a chance to experience live theater,” said Bragdon.
Not only was the version of “Macbeth” designed specifically for students, it is also performed by students. The actors staring in “Macbeth” are enrolled in a three-year graduate program at Asolo Conservatory, part of Florida State University, and will eventually obtain a master’s degree in fine arts. Only 12 students are chosen each year out of thousands who audition nationwide.
The original cast of “Macbeth” included over 27 characters, plus a large number of extras; however, the adapted version was crafted specifically for the 12 students with the same actors playing multiple roles. Director Michael Donald Edwards chose to combine characters to simplify staging and casting, according to Bragdon.
In the play, Macbeth is approached by three witches who tell him he will become the king of Scotland. The adapters, Stephanie Fleischmann and Dimity Troyanovsky, cut the witches out of the play.
However, the prophecy remains and becomes the motivating force of Macbeth’s obsessive ambition, leading him into a world of evil, deceit and murder.
While students often find the plot confusing and the Elizabethan dialect hard to interpret, the plot of “Macbeth” can easily be applied to everyday circumstances.
“On the surface, Macbeth’s story has little to do with normal life,” explained Troyanovsky. “But we live in a society in which ambition and hunger for success play a very important role.
“At its best, ambition fuels social progress and personal growth. But what if the same force can warp the mind and corrupt the soul? It is wholly possible for our inner witches to lead us under the guise of ambition to the path of ethical confusion and even self-destruction.”
The simplified version of “Macbeth” will be performed on an empty stage with no props in an effort to modernize the play and make it more accessible.
“Without the set you forget that the play is period-based,” said Ellen Harvey, fine arts specialist for Charlotte County Public Schools. “It’s a really good way to individually interpret and visually learn a high-level work of literature.