BETHLEHEM Swords will fly, witches will brew, and bags of fake blood will be shed onto flowy white shirts when Bethlehem Central High School premieres “Macbeth” this weekend.
Three performances will be held Friday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m., and on Sunday, Dec. 13, at 2 p.m. Three more performances are set for the following weekend, Friday Dec. 18, Saturday, Dec. 19 and Sunday, Dec. 20, at the same times.
With striking scenes like Lady Macbeth’s crazed, repeated hand washing post-killing, numerous battle scenes, murders and deceptions, Shakespeare’s arguably darkest play is also one of his most memorable.
“Everyone remembers that scene, like ‘hey, look at that crazy lady,” laughed Hannah Thien, of the aforementioned scene, which she is set to perform as Lady Macbeth, the female lead. A conversation about the character with the actress, and it is clear she understands her character’s degrading sanity comes as a result of her increasingly dark deeds.
The scene is draining, hard to perform and “uses everything I learned in my four years of acting here,” said Thien.
Fellow senior Miles Keefe plays the titular role, cradling the burden of having the most lines of any character, many of them from long monologues. “I kind of play him as a wimp. He’s very easily manipulated. There is a big progression in the characters, though. In the end he goes from being the hero to being very insane,” said Keefe.
Thirty-one performers, almost half of them playing witches, comprise the ensemble. In homage to the Greek choir of old, Shakespeare’s witches narrate and watch over the scenes.
Their presence brings eeriness to the atmosphere, out of which arises one of the play’s themes: fate versus free will. Effectively, the audience is left to question who it is that is leading the play’s actions: the characters themselves or the witches.
“In a way, they are the puppet masters behind everything,” said Thien, of the witches. “We think we’re in control of our lives, but in the end it’s a question of, ‘are we really in control?'”
The play is near ubiquitous with high school theater, and a standby for James Yeara, who has directed it at the high school three times previously. Because as all good English teachers know, there can never really be too much of the Bard.
Each production, a new set of actors fills the classic roles, breathing new life into them; each production new sets are made. Even the music, which was not included in Shakespeare’s original version, will be unique to the production, thanks to senior Noelle Marcotullio, who approached Yeara to perform with her ensemble.
Macbeth’s popularity was clear, as the students chose it by vote at the end of last year. As well, the tragedy, Shakespeare’s briefest by far, is required reading for tenth graders, so many teachers enjoy taking their classes to see it.
This year’s production is driven by a core group of seniors, but the ensemble-nature of the play allowed for even the younger students to get their first go in front of a crowd.
“If you can do Shakespeare, you can do anything,” said Yeara, sharing his preference for BC’s plays, which he called “the banquet” when compared to the “dessert” that is BC’s musicals.
With smaller roles, such as the many witches in Macbeth, next year’s batch of thespians can learn