Meet Macbeth Director Raelle Myrick-Hodges!
GS: What excites you most about directing this production of Macbeth?
RMH: The most exciting aspect of this production is to be able to work with the extraordinary caliber of actors in the Atlanta community. I'm excited by their courage to participate in the experiment of Macbeth and to converse with a production that depicted African culture in 1936 [Orson Welles' Voodoo Macbeth] and allows me to discuss the change in our society of African-American culture.
GS: How would you describe Macbeth's world in this production? What is the aesthetic of the play?
RMH: The aesthetic of the play is based in suspense. It's a perfect Halloween show. Yes, it is about how ambition takes us over - but I am interested in discovering how we should be afraid of the consequences of what happens when ambition takes over the human spirit. By utilizing a crackerjack design team to create illusion, with characters disappearing and appearing right before your eyes, we feed the theme of how misguided ambition sneaks up on you.
GS: How did you approach casting for the production?
RMH: By trusting the essence of character depiction. I wasn't interested in the 'Shakespearean actor' energy. I was interested in a storyteller energy. I cast Neal A. Ghant and Cynthia Barker as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth because I wanted to discuss the 'tragedy' of Macbeth. I wanted a couple that we could surprisingly see ourselves in - two people who get entrenched in their own need - as opposed to greed.
GS: What would you say are the central themes of the play, and how do you hope to explore them in this production?
RMH: Impatience that leads to poor choices - what we have a tendency to catagorize as 'ambition' of course. But more importantly, the largest of the themes that sticks out in this play to me (that I feel is often overlooked) is love of family - The Macbeths ADORE each other. They are a truly loving couple. Banquo gives up his postion to try to save his child from possible slaughter. The Macduffs are a more kind, loving family than any in English literature. Lastly, I want to explore the theme of fate - sometimes the world is simply out to get you, which is depicted by the witches in the very first scene. The entire fate of Macbeth is dictated. He is set up to fall down. The question becomes - is it for fun? Or for past sins?
GS: On a personal note, are there any places you hope to visit while you're here in Atlanta?
RMH: I am excited for it all! Mostly eating out is my plan after every rehearsal, and I am taking suggestions!
GS: What will be your next project after Macbeth?
RMH: Shortly after Macbeth, I will be directing Raisin in the Sun in repertory with Clybourne Park. It is ambitious to have two directors (Tracy Young for Clybourne Park) take on the subjects of race, gentrification and the complexity of modern American life, while also discussing its history. It is being produced at Playmakers Repertory in Chapel Hill, where I have directed works twice before.
Raelle Myrick-Hodges served as Brava Theater (SF) Artistic Director from 2008-2012. Under her service, she produced more than 30 full theatrical projects, music, and dance, as well as created two young adult/pre-professional education programs that encouraged women of color to pursue production as technical directors, designers and executive administrators. She presented more than 11 world premiere productions, 15 regional premieres, more than 20 musical presentations, and four dance presentations at Brava. She is the founder of Azuka Theater (now in its 14th year), located in Philadelphia. She created devised works about activist/artist Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and the inspired work Les Rux des Faux from the work of James Baldwin. She has worked with such artists as Meklit Hadero, Geoffrey Arend, George C. Wolfe, Mos Def, Keith David, Meryl Streep, Ato Essoudah, Megan Mostyn-Brown and Suzan-Lori Parks, among other visual and performance art organizations. Last season, she created a new work, Package, that was presented at the de Young Museum and has also presented/created works commissioned by SF MOMA, de Young Museum, and University of California at Santa Clara. While preparing Macbeth for Georgia Shakespeare and NBAF, Raelle has also been preparing to work in repertory with Tracy Young on A Raisin in the Sun/Clybourne Park at Playmakers Repertory. She is currently writing a new work to be presented in 2014 internationally.
The story of Macbeth is not simply a reminder of the outcome of inappropriate action. It is the honest depiction of how one makes decisions that lead to avenues of deception and violence. But, lies, fights, murder are mere manifestations that our society accepts on a daily basis. We barely flinch at the thought of a distressed mother throwing her baby out of a window, or a jealous husband killing his wife, or young children strangling each other in the woods. We like to think that we are abhorred – but, we are not. We don’t expect it, however we accept.
So what truly terrifies us?
As I worked on my first Shakespeare piece in this incarnation at GA Shakespeare, I discovered what scared me the most. The thought of getting to a place in which I could kill for my own well being. Not self defense, but truly being willing to physically harm knowing that it could make my life a better place. As a society we lie to ourselves – claiming we are better than that. We would never do that, right? We would never consider destroying an entire company for simply our own financial gain, but we do it. We would never believe that there are times when a woman brings rape “on herself,” but we believe it. We would never lie for the sake of gaining fame, but we do it. Society allows us a place to say yes, it’s okay to be less of a person in many ways: disloyal friend, cheating partner, crooked politician - all acceptable to us. Does not scare us at all. What scares us is thinking about it. Getting to the inappropriate action is our worst fear. The days and nights we ruminate over whether we can cheat our friend, lie to our family, steal from our job. It is the part of us we wish to deny more than the act itself. Because to acknowledge this about ourselves, we then must admit – we KNOW better. We know something and choose to put the opposite into action. So this production for me is to have all of us admit to our fallacies as a society. Celebrate our ugliness – solely for the purpose of conquering the outcomes of our own ambition.
My ambition to direct my first Shakespeare production would not have been possible without the dream of this project by Neil Barclay.
— Raelle Myrick-Hodges, Director
Macbeth and Banquo, two brave generals in the army of King Duncan who have helped put down a bloody rebellion, are visited on a heath by three weird sisters. Macbeth is hailed as thane of Glamis, thane of Cawdor and king hereafter. Banquo is told that he shall beget kings, though he be none. Just as the weird sisters finish their prophesy and vanish, a noblemen from Duncan greets Macbeth, who is already the thane of Glamis, and gives him the title thane of Cawdor. Macbeth and Banquo join Duncan, who publicly names his son Malcolm as his successor. Macbeth privately reflects on the partial truth of the witches prophesy and resolves to make the third part a reality. He sends a letter to his wife telling her of the prophesy. Duncan announces that he will honor Macbeth by staying in his castle that night.
As Macbeth races homeward to prepare for Duncan’s arrival, his wife reads his letter and resolves to make all of the prophecy come true. That night, while Duncan is sleeping, Lady Macbeth drugs his groomsmen, and Macbeth stabs the king. Lady Macbeth places the bloody daggers in the hands of the sleeping groomsmen, and when the murder is discovered, Macbeth feigns grief and indignation and kills the groomsmen, diverting suspicion from himself. Malcolm and Donalbain, Duncan’s sons, fear a like fate and flee the country. Macbeth is named King.
By play’s end, Macbeth has Banquo killed and is emboldened by additional prophesies telling him that he should fear Macduff but that none of woman born shall harm him and that he will never be vanquished until the wood of Birnam forest comes to Dunsinane castle. After seeing branches from trees in Birnam forest used to disguise an army marching on his castle, Macbeth meets Macduff in the play’s final battle, telling him that he was “from his mother’s womb untimely ripped.” Macbeth is killed, and Duncan’s son, Malcolm, is restored to the throne.