Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
This weekend the campus community can enjoy a reinvented and highly experiential production of Macbeth. The audience will follow the characters from scene to scene. Colin Aarons who plays the title role said this has been really beneficial, because “it forces the actors to stay focused and in character between scenes, because the audience can see them at all times.” Director Jackie Vitale says that the promenade set up of the production and the exploring involved with it will provide “an interesting opportunity for the audience to feel a part of the production. They can really become immersed in the world of the play.” Musical director Dan Perelstein says, “There are tons of interesting things happening and you can choose to see them from close up or from far away.”
This show is a culmination in many ways. As Jackie Vitale’s honors directing thesis, it has allowed her to integrate a lot of things that have been really important to her in the directing she has done over the past few years, including physical acting, music and dance, and tailoring the audience’s experience so that they think about theater in a different way. Macbeth is also the honors music thesis of Dan Perelstein, and the final performance of many of the senior actors. Many of the people involved in the show have worked together throughout their time at Swarthmore and will continue to work together over the summer while they put together a show for the Philly Fringe Fest.
Vitale chose the show because she has always connected to it and she thinks that other people at Swarthmore will be able to as well. She likes that it’s all about giant personalities whose emotional whirlwinds get in the way of their health, their sanity, and their happiness. “I feel like that a lot and I think that I a lot of people at Swarthmore feel that way sometimes. Most of us are really good at some things and absolutely awful at others. As extreme people, we can relate to how having these really strong emotional worlds can be really wonderful or sometimes terrible,” she says.
Dan Perelstein is excited to be working with something that is very different from the traditional definition of a musical. He says, “Macbeth isn’t supposed to be a musical, and music and dance aren’t supposed to be separate. But in the show we have a lot of music without dance and dance without music.”
Costume designer Allison McCarthy focused on how the society of Macbeth has its own specific rules and tried to create something totally new. She took familiar fabrics like flannel, leather, and denim, and put them in unfamiliar contexts.
The location of the show in Crum Henge affected various aspects of the production. The cast was able to use nature to show the magical aspects of Macbeth. Also, the space has no electricity which affected the music, lighting, and cooking involved in the production. Set designer Emma Ferguson worked to mediate between the acting and the space without changing its aesthetic. She really liked the wildness of the space and didn’t want to interfere with that.
An interesting aspect of this production is that it has virtually no environmental impact. Almost everything was recycled, reused, or cheap. Vitale says “In an economic recession, art can feel excessive,” so it was important for her to have a production that was both financially and environmentally responsible.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening, the audience should gather before 6 pm at the gated entrance to Crum Henge which is located on Fieldhouse Drive next to the Mullan Center. Long pants and sturdy closed-toed shoes are recommended. The show will go on in light rain, but in case of a thunderstorm, the time will be changed. Updates will be posted on the theater department website and the Facebook event for the show.