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UI Theater program presents an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth

BY JUSTUS FLAIR | OCTOBER 11, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Lion King, West Side Story, and She’s the Man seem to have nothing in common. However, they are similar in that they are all modernized adaptations of Shakespeare.

Adapting any of Shakespeare’s classic writing to better fit contemporary culture is not uncommon. Matt Hawkins, a third-year University of Iowa graduate student, adapted Shakespeare’s Macbeth for UI’s first Main Stage Series production this season. But what sets Hawkins’s adaptation apart from others is that it is not a modern version — it contains only original text, but the focus is shifted to Lady Macbeth.

Lady M will open at 8 p.m. today in the Theater Building’s Thayer Theater. Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. through Saturday, 8 p.m. Oct. 17 through 20, and 2 p.m. Oct. 14 and 21.

Many would be intimidated by the prospect of changing Shakespeare’s work — he is usually referred to as the greatest English-language playwright of all time. Hawkins said he did not feel this way.

“Everyone’s either going to be pissed or happy about something, so what have I got to lose?” said Hawkins, who is also the play’s director. “The whole point of coming to school is to take risks. So I’m doing that.”

The cast of Lady M feels that risk is paying off.

“I think the way that Matt has crafted this show is really fascinating,” said Matthew James, who will portray Macbeth in the upcoming show. “Usually, it’s mostly Macbeth working alone, and Lady Macbeth is the start or why he goes on his rampage. But in this show, it’s much more of them working as a team. She’s driving a lot of the action, but as a whole, I think it shows a lot more of their relationship.”

Before they could confidently make these changes, the cast and production crew felt they needed to truly understand Shakespeare’s original text.

“We did a lot of research in the original play,” said Lady MacDuff actor Allyson Malandra. “You have to know the original inside and out. We did a lot of research using the first folio, the original text of what [Shakespeare] originally wrote. It’s interesting, because we would create things together in the room. We all had a working understanding of Macbeth, so it was very much a collaborative process. There are definitely a lot of things in our version that are not usually done.”

While Macbeth is Shakespeare’s shortest play, it still runs around three hours. Hawkins cut the show down to only 90 minutes when shifting the focus.

“If [part of the story] helped move Lady Macbeth’s emotional journey and psychological journey, then it was necessary,” he said. “If it was secondary, it wasn’t needed.”

One difference audience members might notice is the emphasis on the three witches.

“I’m just making a strong choice with them and their relationship with Lady Macbeth — which, I guess, is a little different,” Hawkins said.

The changes did not end with his adapted script. Malandra said the show continually changed during rehearsals.

“I would say the changes were hard. We are constantly evolving the story — re-establishing the story,” the first-year graduate student said. “It’s just being willing to be open, and just go with the flow, and just change. You’ve got to be willing to roll with the punches and open your mind and heart to the changes.”

For James, one of the most interesting changes was the more developed dynamic between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

“It’s just been fun to experiment with what their relationship is really like,” he said. “She is the woman behind the man.”

Hawkins said his inspiration for Lady Macbeth’s dominance in this show came from a production of Macbeth he attended that featured an “incredible” Lady Macbeth.

Because Macbeth is such a widely produced play, the cast and crew believed they needed to make their show a bit different, which they believe they have achieved with their adaptation.

“I thought, we know the story, but let’s explore it and make it into something that is really interesting and fun to watch,” Malandra said. “I think the show itself, whether it was Shakespeare or not, is really cool. The story line is kind of creepy; a lot of the story lines seem to come out of being evil.”

Emily and Elizabeth Hinkler, undergraduate students who play two of the witches, described the show as having a “nightmarish quality.”

The cast and crew highly anticipate the opening of the production.

“You’re going to be sitting on the edge of your seats because it’s so fast-paced and the audience is so close to us,” Malandra said. “It’s going to be really exciting, because it’s really suspenseful.”

“We give people permission to feel,” Hawkins said. “And they’ll definitely have an experience.”

Theater: Lady M

When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 8 p.m. Oct. 17 through 20, and 2 p.m. Oct. 14 and 21.
Where: Theater Building Thayer Theater
Admission: $5 with student IDs, $17 for general public


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