“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.”
With these words, the fateful encounter between Macbeth and the three Weird Sisters begins, setting in motion William Shakespeare’s tragedy of imagination and ambition, which in theater circles is known as “The Scottish Play,” but in literary circles as The Tragedy of Macbeth.
The Santa Ynez High School Theater Group is about to tackle this, one of Shakespeare’s bloodiest (and spookiest) plays.
Director Jeff McKinnon has assembled a cast and crew of 30 students who have immersed themselves in Shakespeare’s harrowing tragedy of witchcraft, ambition and murder for the past three months.
Rehearsals have included intense fight scenes, directed by Patrick Lawlor, choreographer for last spring’s popular and rollicking production of Treasure Island. In addition to the fights, senior Davis Reinhart has composed and will perform an original instrumental music score to set the appropriate creepy mood and punctuate the action. Lights and costumes are designed by long-time Theater Group collaborators David and Tatiana Johnson.
“When Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in 1606, England was just two years past the death of Queen Elizabeth and the coronation of James the Sixth of Scotland, now James the First, king of Ireland, Scotland and England (“treble sceptered”), as well as being in the immediate aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot, the unsuccessful attempt by a group of Catholic separatists to blow up a full session of Parliament along with James and his family,” McKinnon noted. “James also had a fascination with and fear of the occult, culminating in his 1597 publication of “Daemonology,” a pseudo-scholarly rationalization for his popularizing of what we now think of as “witch hunts.”
“Shakespeare was also aware of the popular appeal of a tale involving witchcraft that is, literally, drenched in blood, to an audience thirsting for such fare. The “witches” thoroughly dominate this tale, and in this production their presence is ubiquitous.
“Critic Harold Bloom calls the play “a tragedy of the imagination.” The Macbeths, with their “vaulting ambition,” and Macbeth’s own imagination-on-overdrive personality, are vulnerable to the Sisters’ suggestions. They know his weaknesses and exploit them with tragic results. The play, says Bloom, seems so terrifying to us ‘…partly because that aspect of our own imagination is so frightening.’ Macbeth is one of us. He is not evil, but in his world, as perhaps in ours, evil is everywhere. One only needs to invite it in,” McKinnon added.
Shows are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Dec. 5-7 and Dec. 12-14 in the Little Theatre on the high school campus. Tickets, available at the door, are $10 for adults and $5 for students. This production may not be appropriate for younger children.
For more information, call 688-6487, ext. 2361.