Macbeth doth promises to be a tragedy in Vasey Hall



Caitlyn Dittmeier

If there is any Shakespeare tragedy that has stayed with us all the way from high school English class to college for its three witches, otherworldy prophecies, wicked secrets, medieval battle and general mayhem it’s Mac-“Wait! Don’t say it!” No reason to fear everyone! Only when we are in the theatre are we not allowed to say the word “Macbeth.” For the next two weeks, November 10-22, the Villanova Graduate Theatre Department will be awakening Shakespeare’s literary world on campus through its chilling and captivating production of Macbeth.

This past Sunday, my friends and I reminded each other of the infamous theatre superstition as we entered the Vasey Theatre for the department’s final dress rehearsal. As an alumnae of the Villanova Art and Culture learning community, I was thrilled to be able to get an inside look into the life of the theatre during its last night of rehearsal before its debut of the famous Shakespeare tragedy. As I have experienced as a ballet dancer, anything can happen during dress rehearsals, the final “run-throughs” of the show before opening night. It is an exciting time as the actors and actresses of the Villanova Theatre Department transform into their characters, from Lady Macbeth to King Duncan through their costumes and makeup. The stage crew bustles quietly behind the backdrop, preparing to act readily for when cues are given to make the stage electrify with lightning, sound with a thunderous clap and mist with ominous smoke for Lord Macbeth’s eerie encounter with the three prophesizing witches. 

“It’s really cool to see everything that is put into doing the production. I find that I always gain a better understanding of the play itself during these dress rehearsals,” Kellie Joyce, a Villanova sophomore undergraduate, who is a member of the costume shop, exclaimed as she commented on her favorite parts of the Vasey tech week and dress rehearsals. “Being part of the effort behind the scenes at these final rehearsals gives you a really different perspective on the incredible teamwork from the cast, directors, costume and stage crews in order to create a show.”

Macbeth is certainly a play that offers a challenge for every member of the theatre. As a tragedy, its five acts deliver lively battle scenes, suspenseful murders, and many plotting characters. Joyce further explained that the play itself incorporates so many characters that many of the cast members play multiple roles within one performance. That means many “quick-changes” in which the cast and costume crew must work together to change the actors into new costumes and makeup before they reappear as entirely different characters in a matter of minutes. 

Macbeth also spills a great deal of blood (don’t worry, its fake!) upon the stage and on the characters’ clothing. “This means a lot of stage cleanup and a lot of laundry,” Joyce admits.

Like any Shakespearean play, the beautiful yet complex language is difficult for an actor and actress to master. In the theatre house, the audience members must rely on the actors’ and actresses’ use of tone, articulation and gesture in order to follow along with the plot. From Lord and Lady Macbeth’s psychological soliloquies to their interactions with the supernatural, including ghosts, witches, visions and prophesies, the cast has an exciting yet difficult task to communicate many important elements of the play to the audience.  

As my fellow Art and Culture alums and I settled into our seats, being careful not to slip with the “M” word, the director James J Christy appeared on the stage to welcome us to the show. “This is The Scottish Play,” he announced although the director of the play is actually allowed to say “Macbeth” in the theatre. We applauded in excitement as the theatre house darkened leaving only the stage lights glowing overhead. The audience hushed and soon became consumed by the play that has the power to enchant and terrify both on the page and on the stage. The talented Villanova graduate student actors immediately transported us into Macbeth’s world. Figures of witches lurked around the theatre while other characters crouched along the floor and leaped off stage into the audience. While we mostly gripped to our seats in surprise and suspense for the duration of the performance, scenes of comedic relief made the experience all the more fun and entertaining. The director also enlivened the play’s traditional medieval setting with an original contemporary aesthetic. No spoilers but try to picture Macbeth in the World War era… sounds awesome right?

Although I said earlier that anything can happen in a dress rehearsal, this final rehearsal ran perfectly from the audience’s perspective. That’s not to say we are still not jumping up in shock at the crazy actions of the tragedy’s murderous characters and tumultuous events. 

“Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble.” From this production’s unique twists, amazing costumes, dynamic, and talented actors, get ready to be bewitched by the Villanova Graduate Theatre’s production of Macbeth. Free student tickets available for Tuesday showings (reserve in advance).