Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Fearless Imp Entertainment recently opened its debut production, a groundbreaking adaptation of Macbeth. For readers who may be unfamiliar with the production, how would you describe its premise?
Cyanne McClairian: We at Fearless Imp are beyond excited to debut with this very timely true to text adaptation of Macbeth. The fact that it is 100% Shakespeare's script is a large part in what makes it so exciting! The Bard was so ahead of his time that his words transcend history – this is a perfect example of that.
Generally. Macbeth is the story of a Scottish General who, after receiving a prophecy from 3 witches, is overcome by ambition and spurned on by his wife to take the throne – and the events that follow. In this, his wife Lady Macbeth is usually thought to be the villain. As my co-producer Jon Tosetti has so well put it -- “Macbeth's loyal Adam would never have tasted the forbidden fruit if not for Lady Macbeth's Eve, so to speak; so easily corruptible by evil because of her ‘weaker sex.’”
But is any act really so black and white? What if Lady Macbeth's desire to put her husband on the throne wasn't about ambition? After all, she never actually forces him to do anything. What if her motives are deeper?
With everything happening in today's modern times, think of all the people you know who have been affected today by the #MeToo movement. If it is so prevalent now, why would then be any different? Take it a step further – what if Lady M was the victim of sexual assault by the hand of King Duncan? Who would she tell? Heck, who would believe her?
When we started diving in, we were amazed to find that Shakespeare's text completely supports this premise! Could this have been a layer of his story all along? Combining the unadulterated text of the Bard with movement and dance, through the lens of Lady Macbeth & the women of the Scottish Play – THIS is the story we are telling.
Join us in exploring another side of Macbeth and how relevant it is today.
BD: Heidi, as the director, what inspired you to become involved with the show, and how would you describe your process in articulating the development of the characters?
Heidi Powers: I was deeply intrigued by the idea of coming at the story from another angle. We so frequently read and see women’s stories told from a male perspective, and as such, those narratives can become skewed. (A beautiful article in the Daily Beast recently recounted differences between female Arthur Miller characters inspired by history and their real-life counterparts.) The #metoo movement gave so many people the courage to tell their own stories from their own perspectives and left me with a realization that if most women today have suffered assault… then what of the women who were considered property? The possibility that Lady Macbeth would have been assaulted strikes a nerve, and certainly gives her a vastly different motivation. I was eager to dive into the text to find moments that are illuminated by that motivation. My favorite is at the end of the scene where Duncan and Lady Macbeth speak for the first time. Lady Macbeth tells the king, essentially, that everything they own belongs to him, and he has the right to take it back. And Duncan doesn’t ask for anything except for Lady Macbeth’s hand. Even beyond our concept, we found Shakespeare’s text especially prescient in context of the female experience. I marvel that somehow tucked into Elizabethan verse are moments of mansplaining (as Ross tells Lady Macduff how she should emotionally process her husband’s desertion), of mistrusting a woman’s statements (as the doctor doesn’t believe the gentlewoman’s story about Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking) and even going over a woman’s head to the men in charge (as Macbeth doesn’t want to hear the future from the witches, but from “their masters.”) Between these, and all the lessons fathers teach their sons (which we highlight by quadruple-casting one actor playing all the young men) there’s been so much to discover about the play. We joke that every line has nine layers, and while we’ve peeled back so many, I’m aware there’s only ever more to learn from the bard.
BD: Why do you feel that this play will resonate with audiences, and what do you hope that they will take away from the performance?
Jon Tosetti: When Cyanne and Fearless Imp approached me last year to join the production team, my first thoughts concerned the tightrope walk necessary when doing ANY sort of slight adaptation, large or small, to Shakespeare’s works. Audiences are well versed in these plays, and productions with adaptations that take enormous liberties without grounding them in the text do so at their own peril. Other than finding the perfect director to expand Cyanne’s initial vision into a quality production – and in Heidi I am thrilled that we achieved that – our top priority was to make sure that vision could be supported by the text itself. If there is no support, there is nothing for the audience to relate to or have resonate, and they are subsequently taken out of the production.
In Macbeth, we have what is arguably one of Shakespeare’s most structured plays: good and evil are clearly defined, and Macbeth’s dramatic arc almost always follows that of the tragic hero falling from grace due to either fate or another malicious character. In challenging our production to maintain textual integrity while also addressing the very sensitive and highly topical subject of sexual assault, we wished to readdress this structure. The #MeToo movement has challenged us all to acknowledge thousands of horrific experiences that some men and many women have suffered through, often at the hands of powerful people with excellent public reputations. For many, it has long been easier to ignore these statements rather than consider that someone we WANT to have believe incapable of those crimes actually could commit them.
Thus, we arrive at Macbeth, a play where the witches, Lady Macbeth, or either’s manipulation of fate is the cause for the play’s tragic end more than the titular character. What if their motivations were clearer? What if the great men who appear as victims of a greater evil plot had more skeletons in the closet than is initially revealed? Finally, if we acknowledge all the above as truths, does it change how we react to the play itself? It is a great deal to ask the audience to experience. Thus far, I am thrilled that the audiences and press have largely done so, and I have Heidi, Cyanne, and our amazing team to thank for that.
BD: You have quite a talented cast and crew involved with the production. What can you tell us about your shared creative process in bringing Macbeth to life?
HP: One of my favorite parts of our process is the early table work. With each scene, I lead an exercise that brings the text to life: We first read a given scene as it is written, and then I ask the actors to paraphrase it in modern language. Not only does it lead to moments of surprising humor, it also offers the opportunity to make parallels between Shakespeare’s era and our own. In one of the later scenes, Ross says of Scotland, “Alas, poor country, almost afraid to know itself.” As we translated it into modern language, we realized that is how many of us feel about the state of OUR country. We’re almost afraid to look at our news feed, because we don’t want to know what horrible story is coming next. It never ceases to surprise me how relevant the text still is to our lives today. I feel lucky to work with a group of thoughtful, intelligent colleagues who pulled more and more out of the text every time we approached it. Tracking the character’s journeys as we progressed through rehearsals was meaningful, too. The actors helped me, for instance, to deconstruct female archetypes through our witch characters, which we named “the crone,” “the stranger” and “the mother.” They helped me reveal the humanity underlying the villainy. I couldn’t have done this without all of their remarkable discoveries.
BD: Macbeth will be running through April 29th. What is the best way for our readers to garner tickets for the show?
For more info, performance dates and tickets, readers can go to https://macbeth-herstory.bpt.me.
BD: Are there any other upcoming shows or projects that you would care to share with our readers?
CM: We at Fearless Imp love finding that untold gem of a story hidden amidst what you already think you know. Our next production is an original piece by Brandy Chernow premiering at the Hollywood Fringe Festival this June entitled “The Importance of Being Oscar.”
Starring our Macduff, Patrick Censoplano, as Dorian Gray, as well as Richard Abraham as Oscar, Richard Lucas and myself – it follows the legendary playwright and poet in the last years of his life, directed by Fearless Imp co-founder and producer Matthew Martin.
Later this year, stay tuned also for our take on True West by Sam Shepard, as well as a reprise of my award-winning solo show, I Died... I Came Back...Whatever!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Macbeth?
CM: Macbeth is one of my all-time favorites of Shakespeare's plays! The Bard embeds so very many layers in all of his works, but this one in particular is incredibly rich.
'Tis easy to be intimidated by the language – many people are and, honestly, 'tis completely understandable. While Shakespeare has given us so very many words and sayings that we use on an every day basis, rarely if ever do we speak half as intricately. Oddly enough, I actually taught myself to read via the Bard.
Mayhaps just take a breath, have a drink, and read it out loud – alone or with friends. That might sound a little strange, but one of my all time favorite games is what I call “Shots & Shakespeare.” It takes the intimidation out and puts the fun in. You can't help but understand as you feel what he is saying.
HP: Remember that there isn’t one single answer to interpreting Shakespeare’s poetry. There’s so much packed in there! And know that his plays were written for performance; reading it can be more challenging that watching it come to life through the eyes of gifted actors. So, catch a local production and support live theatre!