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APPALACHIAN SHAKESPEARE PROJECT AT CONCORD UNIVERSITY PRESENTING ‘MACBETH’
ATHENS, W.Va. - The sound of clanging swords and Shakespearean verses ring out on the Concord campus. Students, faculty and community members are hard at work preparing a production of “Macbeth” for the second annual Appalachian Shakespeare Project at Concord University.
Last year, the Appalachian Shakespeare Project offered one of William Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies. This year, the production is one of his best-known tragedies.
The play’s guest director, Erin Bone Steele, said, “One goal of this project is to allow performers to work with texts in a way they simply can’t in a classroom, and another goal is to share different pieces with the community. Shakespeare wrote in a number of styles, including comedy, tragedy, history and romance.”
Staging directions in Shakespeare are rare, but in “Macbeth,” there are a number of murders and the final scene includes the instructions, “they fight.” At the end of June, actors worked with guest artist Matthew Wilson to learn sword skills and combat choreography. Wilson, who is certified by the Society of American Fight Directors as a master combatant and teacher, is a professional actor based in Washington, D.C. with numerous New York and regional credits, and membership in the Screen Actor’s Guild and the Actor’s Equity Association.
Stage combat is a unique skill. “The fight has to help tell the story. Actors have to be able to repeat the fight, cleanly, safely, every night. Stage combat is very different from the work of re-enactors or competition fencers,” Wilson reminded the cast. Performers who use swords gather every day before rehearsal to warm up and practice their fight sequences.
The plot of “Macbeth” centers on the efforts of a Scottish lord and war hero. Urged on by a witches’ prophesy and helped by his wife, Macbeth murders the king to claim the crown and attempts to rid the kingdom of potential challengers. As ghosts of his victims haunt him and Lady Macbeth goes insane, his fortune changes. To overthrow the tyrant, rightful heirs and noblemen confront Macbeth in a final showdown.
CU literature professor Gabriel Rieger noted, “This has the potential to be one of Shakespeare’s darkest tragedies. Macbeth has good intentions, has doubts, but is brought down by his own ambition and fate. He’s got a poetic touch of Hamlet in him, but he’s also known for brute strength. It’s a complex character.”
“Macbeth” will be presented at the outdoor stage, south side of the Alexander Fine Arts building on the Concord University campus at 6 p.m. on July 22, 23, and 24. Cost is pay-what-you-can with a recommended donation of $5 per person. Audiences are encouraged to bring camp chairs and picnics.
Participants include Chris Allen, Mariah Bragg-Jordan, Tom Bone III, Tom Bone IV, Ginger Boyles, Aaron Chamberlin, Calvin Cole, Norman Cole, Dawn Danieley, Joshua Miller, Gabriel Rieger, Irene Rieger, Sandra Stafford, Moriah White and Kirsten Woods.
The Appalachian Shakespeare Project is sponsored by the Division of Languages and Literature at Concord University and also enjoys support from the Athens-Concord Town Social and Concord United Methodist Church. “Macbeth” is funded in part by a grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council.
(Official Humanities Council disclosure: This project is being presented by Concord University with financial assistance from The West Virginia Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.)
Rehearsals for the upcoming production of “Macbeth” by the Appalachian Shakespeare Project at Concord University include practicing stage combat techniques.