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APRIL 20 at 7:30pm | APRIL 21 at 2:00pm
Sheen Center Shiner Theatre | 18 Bleecker Street


Featuring b, Jason Bowen, Leovina Charles, Stephen Moyer, Kristine Nielsen, Jason O’Connell, Olivia Reis, Miriam Silverman, Derek Smith, Zuzanna Szadkowski, and Raphael Nash Thompson

One of the most malevolently attractive plays of all time, Macbeth is often held up as the greatest dramatic example of the fatal flaw of ambition. But what if ambition were not the driving force behind the actions of the Macbeths? This workshop seeks to delve deeper into the core of the Macbeths' relationship - a relationship full of passion, evil, grief, and ultimately tragedy. And also there are some pretty weird sisters hanging around…what are they all about? Join us on a journey of exploration into the most Jacobean of all Shakespeare’s plays.  


              Shakespeare’s company had reached new heights of success by the time Macbeth was written in
1606. Shortly after his coronation in 1603, King James I became their patron, and they were 
renamed the King’s Men. In the next few years, Shakespeare wrote three of his greatest tragedies: Othello, King Lear, and then Macbeth. But this was an uneasy time in England. Just months before Macbeth was first performed, a cache of gunpowder underneath the Parliament House was discovered the night before James was to open the parliamentary session. The king had already survived an assassination attempt in Scotland, and his own mother, Mary Queen of Scots, had been executed by his predecessor, England’s Queen Elizabeth. A play that exalted his ancestor Banquo as the upright founder of a legitimate line of kings was clearly designed to flatter and reassure the jittery monarch.

              Nonetheless, Macbeth reflects the anxious temper of its times. It is an unsettled and unsettling play that raises questions about the nature of reality, the intersection of chance and destiny, the extent to which we can determine or alter our fate. It is also a portrait of grief and marital devotion gone horribly wrong, of ambitions pursued to fill an emotional void that by the end of the play has grown into the existential void Macbeth faces in his final soliloquy, “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.” The Macbeths end in madness and death, yet they are one of the few genuinely intimate and loving married couples in Shakespeare. In the process of exploring this play, director Nathan Winkelstein and a group of Red Bull actors became fascinated by the possibility that shared grief over their recently dead child and love for one another were the primary forces driving them and the play. The three weird sisters seize on Macbeth’s anguish and love for his wife as tools with which to tempt him towards the destruction and chaos they feed on; his fury that they have given him “a fruitless crown” destined for Banquo’s children impels him deeper into villainy. Shakespeare took his royal patron’s well-known obsession with witchcraft and fear for the security of his throne and used them as elements to fashion a tragic masterpiece that speaks to us all.



              Born in 1564 in Stratford, England, William Shakespeare left for London sometime in the late 1580s. Gravitating quickly to the flourishing world of London theater, the young Shakespeare began to write plays, occasionally in collaboration with other playwrights like Thomas Nashe.  He was lucky to join a group of talented theater practitioners who spurred his creativity and whose work remained for decades in constant conversation with his own.  Shakespeare was also lucky that in London he could access all the riches of a vibrant and growing metropolitan center located close to the royal seat of power in Westminster. London also brought him in contact with all the diverse people that the city’s expanding commercial life brought to it from Europe, the Levant, the Americas, and beyond. 

              By 1594 Shakespeare had become a member of one of the city’s most stable theater companies, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later renamed The King’s Men when James I came to the throne in 1603.  For several decades Shakespeare remained one of the company’s leading dramatists, but we know he also acted and was a company shareholder, that is, someone who had committed money to the company and took part of the profits from its performances. During his London career Shakespeare wrote some of the most celebrated plays in the Western dramatic canon in an astonishing variety of genres. In the 1590s he helped bring into being the genre of the English history play (think Richard III or Henry V) while also writing early tragedies such as Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet and romantic comedies like Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It.  The decade after 1600 saw the creation of his most acclaimed tragedies from Hamlet to Macbeth and dark or problem comedies like Measure for Measure.  At the end of his career Shakespeare was still innovating, writing late plays influenced by medieval romance and Italian tragicomedy.  The Tempest, first performed in 1611, is one of those late plays. Shakespeare died in Stratford in 1616. 

- JEAN HOWARD | Scholar & Dramaturgical Consultant, Columbia University

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