Written in 1606 by the pre-eminent dramatist of the day, Macbeth may seem a smidge archaic for anyone but hardcore Shakespeare enthusiasts. After all, much has changed since England’s Jacobean Age, when watching parliamentarians get beheaded was considered good, wholesome fun.
Be that as it may, the Bard’s 17th-century script is more relatable than we presume, says Lisa K. Bryant, producing artistic director at Flat Rock Playhouse.
“Unfortunately, the pursuits of power and what humans will do to themselves and each other to achieve it haven’t gone out of fashion,” says Bryant, who will be directing the Playhouse’s rendition of the five-act tragedy this October.
And tragedy it is. The plot follows a Scottish general named Macbeth who receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that he’ll soon be named Thane of Cawdor and later reign as Scotland’s king.
At first, Macbeth dismisses the omen. It’s hogwash, surely. But when Macbeth is, in fact, honored with the title of thane, he begins to believe there may be truth to the augury. His power-hungry wife, Lady Macbeth, is even more certain, and soon convinces her beloved to murder King Duncan and steal the throne.
What follows is a bloody mess of guilt, paranoia, and unchecked ambition that’ll hit closer to home than theatergoers expect. That’s thanks to timeless themes, but also a careful contemporization that makes the Playhouse production “immediate and vital to the audience,” says David Lind, a New Orleans-based actor playing the lead role of Macbeth.
As Lind explains, the script won’t “seem 400 years old,” but instead will “feel like it’s unfolding right in front of them, in clothes and voices that [are]…familiar.”
To help patrons develop an even deeper connection with the narrative, Macbeth will be presented as part of the Black Box Series. Introduced last fall, this intimate and immersive series delivers darker, grittier subject matter than is typically found on the playbill. It also invites theatergoers to transcend the “fourth wall” — the proverbial division between actor and audience — by climbing onto the Leiman Mainstage and watching performances unfold from feet away.
“The Black Box Series is an opportunity for the Playhouse community to experience theater at Flat Rock a little differently,” says Bryant. “The reconfiguration of the on-stage audience seating, combined with production material not normally found during the rest of the season, accounts for the series’ distinction.”
The upcoming show will be especially distinctive, considering it’s the Playhouse’s first professional Shakespeare production.
“I’m excited to bring the Bard to our patrons and share with them an experience they may think they know, but won’t have seen in this format,” says Bryant. “Plus, there’s only one — and will only ever be one — William Shakespeare. It’s time he’s represented in our lexicon of offerings.”
Macbeth opens on the Leiman Mainstage of Flat Rock Playhouse (2661 Greenville Hwy., Flat Rock) on Friday, Oct. 6, and runs through Sunday, Oct. 22. For dates, times, and ticket information, call 828-693-0731 or see flatrockplayhouse.org.