By Sarah Smith
Viva Loudoun High School Intern
(Oct. 11, 2013) – What happens when post-apocalyptic America meets the 11th century tragedy of Shakespeare’s acclaimed play, Macbeth?
Stone Bridge High School’s drama department, Running Dog Productions, hopes to answer that question this fall as the Bulldog thespians will be jumping into the year 2068, and putting a science fiction spin on the classic plot of Macbeth.
Macbeth is one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays, set in medieval Scotland. It follows Macbeth, who has been told that he will one day be King of Scotland. Urged on by selfish ambitions and the ambitions of his wife, he plots to murder the king and usurp the throne.
“I’ve been thinking about this play since the first time I saw it in fourth grade,” director Glen Hochkeppel said. “I’ve always thought that the play was just really cool. It has a really interesting set of characters and you can get a lot out of it. It takes a really basic coup d’état and lets the audience look into the minds of the rebels. It lets them see the almost immediate consequences of crime.”
The Running Dogs hope that their unique spin on Macbeth will be enough to draw the attention of Cappies critics who will be reviewing the play.
Cappies is an organization made up of high school drama critics who travel to other schools to review their plays. Plays can then be nominated for awards in various categories, such as acting, singing, dancing, and many other aspects of technical theater.
“I chose this to be our Cappies show for the year because I knew it would be really good,” Mr. Hochkeppel said. “I don’t think anyone else will do something similar to our spin on Macbeth, and we have really good people in charge of design.”
The play’s cast includes seniors Jamie Arians, Ryan Bateman, Elizabeth Morton and Samantha Wooley. The cast also features a large ensemble and several other actors and actresses playing nobles.
“I love this play so I’m excited to play Lady Macbeth,” Morton said. “She is one of the most interesting and powerful female characters in the classical Western canon. I am extremely excited to play this iconic role and give it my own spin. She’s one of those characters every actress wants to play once and I am honored to be given this opportunity.”
Traditionally, Macbeth is filled with Scottish noblemen, creating a predominately male cast. The Running Dogs have taken a unique spin on that too, filling their cast with a lot of strong female actors.
“One of my goals is to use everyone to their best abilities,” Mr. Hochkeppel said. “We have so many strong female actresses in this cast, and we can really use that to an advantage here. In post-apocalyptic America, people would understand that if you were capable of fighting, you needed to fight, opposed to how it would be in the original 11th century setting of the play.”
Females are playing characters from King Duncan to some of the noblemen, like Lennox, Banquo, and Donalbain.
“The roles were cast gender-blind, so I am playing Donalbain,” Wooley said. “I’ve always wanted to perform one of Shakespeare’s plays. It’s so much fun to act out such dynamic work, and sometimes even put a modern twist on it.”
Another common feature among the cast members is that a large majority of them are seniors. For many of them, this play brings bittersweet feelings as their high school drama careers reach the beginning of their end.
“I find it immensely sad that this is my last play,” Morton said. “This is my last big acting experience in high school. It’s bittersweet, but I plan to make the most of it.”
Another important aspect of every play is the technical work that goes into the planning of every minute of the show. Technical aspects range from light and sound to costumes, hair, and makeup. Students are in charge of all of this.
Elements like the set and costumes will help portray the futuristic world that Stone Bridge’s Macbeth is set in.
“Costumes for Macbeth are traditionally elaborate,” head of costumes Morton said. “For this play, we are trying to highlight what a post-apocalyptic society would look like. Clothing manufacturing would stop, so we are trying to make these costumes look as unmanufactured as possible. They will feature clothes that have been reworked, with weird cutouts and collars. However, the witches will be pristine. After years of aging, mortal clothing and fabric would not retain any bright color or pure whiteness. Thus, these ethereal creatures will be wearing the most fluorescent of neons and blinding of whites.”
Another unique element in this play is the dancing. Junior Madeline Fullham is in charge of the choreography. She hopes to blend contemporary dance and Shakespeare’s traditional witches. Senior Adam Weiss is composing music for the play, working with orchestral instruments and possibly vocalists.
“In our futuristic Macbeth, the witches are a little different too,” Mr. Hochkeppel said. “Not only will they have their magical powers like in the original play, but they’ll also be using nuclear power from a waste site that they found. The witches have a sort of alliance with the hill-folk rebels.”
The actors and actresses have been practicing almost every afternoon after school, working on everything from learning their lines to dances that will be incorporated into the play. For the cast, these next few months will be filled with more hours of rehearsal, making everything perfect for when the curtain opens.
Lights will dim in the auditorium and the curtains will rise for the first time on December 5 at 7:30 pm. Other showings of the play will be on December 6 and 7.
“I’m so excited to bring Shakespeare to life,” Wooley said. “This is going to be a great play.”
Sarah Smith is a junior at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn