William Shakespeare’s timeless tale of greed and manipulation will come alive through talents of the Texas State theater department tonight.
Students in the “Macbeth” cast have spent as much as five hours a day, five days a week rehearsing for sword fights, beheadings,complicated language exchanges and extensive stage effects. Charles Ney, director of “Macbeth” and professor in the department of theater and dance, said the cast recently spent a “grueling” 25 hours on technical and dress rehearsals from Thursday through Sunday.
“Macbeth” features a merciless struggle for power accompanied by supernatural meetings, which may have helped certain characters find manifest destiny in their desires. Audience members will witness a slide into insanity as visions of bloodthirsty opposition grip the main character in a 12th-century Scotland setting.
Ney said it was time for the department to do a Shakespeare tragedy, and he submitted the title to the selection committee because of affection for the play and a wish to direct it.
“It has a large cast and more women’s roles than most of Shakespeare’s plays,” Ney said. “This is one of the greatest plays ever written. It is an unusual love story, as well as a bloodthirsty tale examining the consequences of a ruthless pursuit of power.”
Caleb Straus, graduate student who will be playing the role of Macbeth, did not expect to get the lead in the production. Straus’ part in the play will be his first at Texas State.
“I kind of had my eye on a smaller role,” he said. “I didn’t anticipate getting Macbeth, because I wasn’t sure if people would make that kind of bet on me. But it was nothing I could turn down.”
Straus said his favorite feature of acting in “Macbeth” is the physicality of it, namely, the sword fights. Ney, however, said his favorite experience has been the learned details and sharing Shakespearean discoveries with students.
“I am always learning new information about, for example on this production, what weapons 12th-century warriors might have used, or what we know about rules of decorum,” Ney said. “And working with students and introducing them to the challenges and pleasures of performing Shakespeare is a real treat.”
Ney said the most difficult task in directing the play was coordinating all the details, such as the 27 actors, 100 lighting and sound cues, the “purely spectacle moments” and the period clothing. Straus’ difficulties with stepping into the role of Macbeth were in the force of his character.
“The kind of energy it requires — it’s quite a lot. A lot of negative energy,” Straus said. “It’s the first show I’ve been a part of at Texas State, so to start back with something like this was kind of a jolt. It’s been very rewarding.”
The cast has followed the Shakespeare script closely and consulted different editions for punctuation and word choice. Ney said only occasional words were changed for modern clarity, and he embraced the typical Shakespearean anachronisms within the context of the setting.
Straus said the cast is one of the strongest he has worked with.
“I’m excited for people to see it,” he said.
“Macbeth” performances will be at 7:30 p.m. today to April 4 and Tuesday to Thursday of next week in the Theatre Center. There will also be a 2 p.m. matinee this Sunday. Admission is $10 for the general public and $7 for students with a Texas State ID.