Live Theater Reopens with the Absolute Banger: Macbeth

Mary Kelley, Scarlet Staff

There is no better re-introduction to live theater than CUPS’ recent Macbeth performance set in the Worcester Arboretum, or rather the roaming forests of Scotland. It was a safe alternative to being cramped inside the Little Center, where the air quickly grows stale and becomes a potential hazard to the health of all involved. Pandemics and plagues have yet to stop a Shakespearean performance and CUPS made sure that COVID 19 kept to the trend. Theaters and most public spaces have been closed since March of 2020 and even now in October, the Coronavirus is still a major concern. Clark’s cases of COVID-19 have been extremely low and the entire campus continues to be tested at 72-hour intervals. Taking advantage of the Worcester Arboretum was the perfect way to recapture live performances while keeping the audience at a safe distance. The audience, cast, and crew were required to wear protective face coverings for the duration of the performance, but this only sparked further creativity from CUPS, including witches with very appropriate burlap masks and a severed head, most likely no longer breathing, that still had a mask firmly in place. 

The joy of Macbeth is, in part, due to how well known the play is. Most Clark students have studied the play to some degree previously, which helps when the play takes place somewhere as exciting as the Arboretum. There were no microphones or speakers, which at points made the performance a bit hard to hear, especially with masks covering mouths and performers having to speak over the ambiance of a forest in Worcester. With such a well-known play, it doesn’t really matter if the audience can hear every single word as they already know the story. Nick Sturman, who portrayed Macbeth, was particularly good at monologuing to the audience and forcing anxious college students to nod along to the ramblings of a man in a quick descent into madness. Sarah Drapeau was as terrifying as ever, making Lady Macbeth all the more passionate and manipulative. The Weyard Sisters would periodically emerge from the dark woods and steal the show; Raina Carfaro, Erin Frizzell, and Emma Couillard were as haunting as can be and clearly had the home field advantage being the wild. The entire show was lit entirely by flashlights placed along the path and other flashlights held in hand, directly pointing to the actors. The costumes were perfectly Shakespearean, featuring tight pants and beautiful long dresses. The fourth wall was completely broken as the audience followed the actors closely, actors addressing lines directly to the audience and then making off further into the woods, only for the audience to stumble upon them again as the audience made their way through the winding trails of the arboretum. The entire show was constantly in motion, forcing the audience to keep abreast of the action the entire time. 

AJ Simmons, the graphic designer for the show and one of the many set designers, detailed the hard work put into every ounce of preparation for the show “Every day we had to carry in all the set pieces and props and strike each night. Most days we were working from 4:30 until 9:30 or 10 pm, just setting everything up, running two shows, and striking everything each night. It was exhausting.” But the final product was worth all that hard work. Kim H. Carrel did a fantastic job directing across the various paths of the Arboretum, creating a dynamic and creatively charged adaptation of Macbeth. There is hope for the continuation of live theater, even in an uncertain time. Birnam wood made its way to Dunsinane from Thursday, October 22 to Sunday, October 25, including an Instagram live stream to account for the large population of Clarkies who were not able to nab a spot in the limited audience. Over 400+ people streamed the performance in real-time over Instagram live. The entire show is still available for your viewing pleasure on the CUPS Facebook, easily accessed below by the attached QR code.