The play opened with a jailyard brawl. A woman was hamstrung, another shoved against the chain-linked fence surrounding the set, and yet another tackled to the floor. No punches were pulled and a liberal amount of fake blood topped off the opening scene.
“MacBETH,” or “The Scottish Play” as it is known in theater circles, is familiar, but noticeably changed in this EMU production. The cold, dreary highlands of Scotland are replaced by looming guard towers and impassable chain-linked fences. The power struggle between Scottish lords has been adapted to take place in the close quarters of a women’s penitentiary. It is just as bloody and violent as the original, but it takes on new meaning within the confines of a modern jail.
“While our production of the play has been trimmed to better suit our rehearsal period and casting options, we worked to honor the language, the morality, and the violence of MacBETH,” Heidi Winters Vogel, director of the play, wrote in her director’s notes.
Vogel reimagined the new setting herself. It took a while before Vogel settled on a proper modified setting for the modern retelling of “MacBETH,” especially when taking into account the predominantly female cast. All except one of the actors is female.
“I was looking for a setting that shared the brutality and harshness of medieval Scotland and was dominated by women,” said Vogel.
The actors appreciate the setting of the play as well. “I think that the penitentiary works really well for ‘Mac- BETH’ in particular because of all the power play,” said senior Dallas Hetrick. “This is a murderous show.”
The play also runs shorter than the original, with three Acts rather than five, cutting out some of the side plots. Even with time cuts and a change in setting, the play retains all of the original language.
All of the leads are played by females. This changes interactions and relationships within the play, making the power struggle all the more engaging. The relationship between Mac and Lady, portrayed by seniors Emma Roth and Clara Bush, respectively, is particularly charged and powerful. Vogel described the relationship as “tender and caring at times, but also manipulative and unforgiving at others.”
The stage combat is just as unforgiving as Mac and Lady’s relationship. Jeremy West, who had taught the stage combat workshop on Sept. 9, choreographed all of the set pieces in the play. The cast has adopted them wholeheartedly, and it shows. The sequences are complex and realistic.
“We’re working on finalizing fight scenes and making sure they’re precise and real each time,” said junior Alyssa Shenk. “I think the fight scenes are some of the most impressive parts.”
The whole production has been thoughtfully created, and, with the twist of setting, brings out depths that have never been explored before.
“MacBETH” will show Nov. 10, 16-18 at 7:30 p.m. and on Nov. 12 at 3 p.m.