Fair is foul, foul is fair: NIU Studio Series stages Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy, ‘Macbeth’

Edinburgh Castle in Scotland
Edinburgh Castle in Scotland

Murder, witchcraft and deception color the dark yet deeply human tragedy, “Macbeth.”

Northern Illinois University’s School of Theatre and Dance will present a new production of the classic drama Thursday, Feb. 16, through Sunday, Feb. 19, in the Stevens Building Corner Theatre.

Director Alexander Gelman says the play will challenge the actors and entertain the audience.

“Macbeth” follows the bloody exploits of the title character and his strong-willed wife.

Their ambition and lust for power lead them on a murderous ascent to Scotland’s royal throne. The main characters’ ambition proves to be their tragic flaw and results in their downfall.

When three witches prophecy that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor and then king, Macbeth initially disbelieves them. After Macbeth becomes Thane of Cawdor, however, he begins to believe the witches and plots his political rise.

Gelman says that when Shakespeare’s play premiered, the audience was disturbed by the darker scenes. Gelman aims to elicit the same uneasiness from his modern audience.

He says if a show’s first audience rioted during a performance, it’s his job as the modern director draw out the same emotion.

Alexander Gelman
Alexander Gelman

Although written almost 400 years ago, “Macbeth” is no museum piece, says Gelman.

“The hope is that people can come and see this play as if it were written last week, because it’s certainly timeless,” he says. He emphasizes that the characters of “Macbeth” are essentially human, insisting that an audience will see something of themselves in the characters.

The actors will be wearing modern clothes on stage, a choice that Gelman sees as a faithful adaptation rather than an update.

“When the play was done originally, the actors wore their own clothes; they wore the clothes of their own time. In other words, they wore modern dress,” he says.

“Macbeth” is the first Studio Series production this semester. The limited resources and minimalist settings of a Studio Series production highlights the play’s essential component—the acting itself, says Gelman.

Weeknights and Saturday night performances begin at 7:30 p.m. with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door.

For more information, call (815) 753-1600 or email sotdboxoffice@niu.edu.

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