Witches, murders, sword fights, apparitions dressed all in black holding candles, and a ghost four nights before Halloween screams horror movie, but in this case it screams tragedy, or more specifically, “Macbeth.”
The three witches in the show contorted their faces while looking directly at the audience to be as menacing and creepy as possible for girls under the age of 18 to look. The shadows from the lighting and the horror movie music that played when they were on stage only intensified that.
Sword fights, slit throats and stabbings led to many deaths, as is expected in a Shakespearian tragedy, but this show has Macbeth and Lady Macbeth come out with blood on their hands after killing Duncan. Macbeth himself is beheaded at the end of the show.
Banquo’s throat is slit on orders from Macbeth and two minutes later he comes back on stage white as a ghost with a slit throat and bloody stomach. When Macbeth notices him and the lights hit him, Banquo’s eyes are sunken in, black, and it’s easy to see why he’s terrifying to Macbeth – besides the fact he’s dead and Macbeth is the only one who can see him.
The Middlebury Actors Workshop performed “Macbeth” at the Paramount Theatre as a Soundings event Oct. 27. Chair of the Castleton theater department, professor Harry McEnerny, was Banquo in the show and professor Angela Brande was the costume designer.
“I was more nervous than I thought I would be,” McEnerny said about performing in front of his students. “But it wasn’t just me thinking, “okay these are my students out there.” The rest of the cast is like “okay there’s all these Castleton students out there.”
The two-minute change from living to dead that McEnerny’s character went through after being dragged off stage took three people to get done. Someone held makeup on their hand to warm it up for him, another person helped him changed to the bloodied shirt, and the final person put on his neck wound. He said it was a challenge to get back in time to come out and scare Macbeth.
Brande was excited for students to see her designs, which included Banquo’s bloody clothes.
“I loved that and that there were bad reviews of my work and some good comments about the work so they get to see that even when you’ve been doing it for 20 years, not everyone is going to like your work. People are going to disagree or interpret it differently and those aren’t necessarily wrong. They’re just different,” said Brande about the experience and a review that mentioned her costumes in Seven Days.
Though she said she’d have preferred all good reviews, she believed it was good for students to see that no one gets good reviews all the time.
Theater students loved seeing their professors’ work.
“Seeing Harry act tickled me. I don’t know the words to describe it. It’s like seeing your parents do something that they’ve been helping you do and then you’re like “that’s funny because you’ve been teaching me this and there you are doing it,” Vincent Tatro said.
Former theater students also enjoyed seeing their professors’ work.
Jessica Poljacik, a 2016 graduate of Castleton’s theater program, loved the set design for the show and she cites McEnerny’s performance as one of her favorites.
“Shakespeare is no easy beast to tackle, so I applaud especially Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, the porter, and Banquo for their performances. If you asked them, I’m sure they could easily translate their lines into modern English without hesitation,” Poljacik said.
She did have one issue with the experience, though.
Poljacik said she wasn’t trying to be that person who complains about Soundings students, but the way people were behaving was disruptive and disrespectful to the performers and the audience members who were paying attention to the show.
“One of the things that made me most heartbroken for the performers was the audience in attendance … Many audience members talked throughout the course of the performance or went in and out of the theater more than once and did not try to quiet their elephant like sounds. Some checked cell phones and couldn’t be bothered to have self-control and wait for intermission or the performance to be over. As a performer, my heart broke for the actors on stage. Audience members like those tarnish the experience of theater,” Poljacik said.