Swordplay for Steampunk Macbeth
Rehearsals are in full swing for the Grand Marais Playhouse’s production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a Doug Scholz- Carlson adaptation. I dropped in the other night to see how rehearsals were going. It was a beehive of activity with cast members discussing what they’re wearing and Director Sue Hennessy tweaking decisions on costumes. I was able to squeeze in visits with a couple of cast members.
Community member Jeff Fenwick, who plays Macduff, got to take the recent stage combat classes offered by the Grand Marais Playhouse (GMP). The instructor and Macbeth choreographer, Annie Enneking, an Associate Fight Instructor with Dueling Arts International, recently received the 2010-11 McKnight Theater Artist Fellow award for her 28-year career in acting, dancing, teaching and stage combat choreography.
Though Jeff has been involved in theater since age seven, this was his first experience with stage combat. Jeff said learning the intricate fight choreography was grueling but “great!”
Macbeth has a fair number of fight scenes, and Jeff has one particularly intense scene with a main character. Actors are fighting with broad swords and daggers; the choreography is incredibly detailed and there is no room for error. Every move must be practiced over and over to get the precise timing. The goal is for the audience to feel the authenticity and the emotional and physical danger of the fights, yet without the actors being harmed.
Cook County Senior Aliyah Weisberg also graciously consented to an interview. She plays Lady Macbeth, along with a couple other parts. She shared some of her insights into Lady Macbeth’s character, speaking of how deeply in love she is with Macbeth and then her growing horror at what she is losing as Macbeth begins his descent into madness. As their relationship increasingly disintegrates, Macbeth becomes more violent. I asked her how she handles the intensity of emotions throughout the play; how does she get back into herself? Aliyah said there are cool down scenes and one scene in particular where she is able to release a lot of that built-up emotion.
Aliyah’s first play was Alice in Wonderland where she played the dodo bird and the queen’s attendant. Macbeth is her first “big” role and she’s “terrified, grateful, and excited!”
Following high school Aliyah will be studying to become a chef. Her dream job? – owning a dinner theater, or at least a restaurant in a theater area! As she said, “Cooking and acting come from the same place. In theater you create something from the outline of the script and in cooking you create something from the outline of the recipe. You breathe your own entity into each.”
I also ran into Emma Bradley, Grand Marais Playhouse’s volunteer costumerextraordinaire. Emma told me she’s not had much to do! The steam punk style has been a delightful learning experience for her. Cast members have had great fun scrounging for costumes in the steam punk theme. Many items were found within the GMP costume closet with minor adaptations, plus Director Hennessy spent a lot of time scavenging the second-hand stores in the Cities to round out the selections. As Jeff Fenwick said, he’s never “correlated a Shakespearean play with steam punk, but it sure has made the play fun and the effects are awesome!”
I left the rehearsal with more energy than I had when I arrived. The cast’s excitement was contagious and the depth of their commitment amazing.
Shakespeare’s Macbeth opens at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts April 28-May 1 and May 5-7. With daggers and broad swords and fight scenes, oh my and Shakespeare in steam punk – it will be a production not to be missed! As Jeff concluded in his interview, “…It is a cast of all stars!”
Playhouse Board Member Shelby Anderson provides this behind-thescenes look at Grand Marais Playhouse activities.