Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Curse of the Scottish Play, or "Hell is murky!"

So Macbeth is going excellently well. We opened a third week of performances, and it was sold out in five hours. Just saying. Here are some of the reviews we've gotten so far:

Dear Theatre buddies . . .

Wow is all I can say! You and your students did a marvelous job with Macbeth!

Acting, stage, sound, lighting, costumes . . . all in perfect harmony with each other and with the old Bard of Avon himself. The old Globe could not have done it better!

This campus is blessed by having you and your talents here. I like to pretend that I am one of you.

Kelly Burgener, Associate Academic Vice President, BYU-Idaho

Woo hoo! The administration doesn't hate us! Also, here's another:

Roger,

I've never liked to see a Skakespeare play before I saw MacBeth on campus. (Before this I was always thinking, "I should be enjoying this. After all, it's a classic. How many more acts are there to go?)

But " MacBeth" under your direction was amazing!

I liked the sword fighting!
I liked the witches stuffing the bodies of dead people down the hatch!
I liked the voices of the witches!
I liked the knock, knock joke segment!
I liked Macbeth changing throughout the play! I loved seeing him go mad.
I liked how much I disliked Lady Macbeth!
I liked how you let us see what MacBeth saw when Banquo appeared to him, and then, after intermission, showed us the same scene as the dinner guests saw it. What a great way to begin the intermission!
I liked it that I could actually understand what was being said. (The worse thing about a high school Shakespeare play is when the actors don't know what they're saying but they're so proud they managed to memorize the lines.)
The costumes were exceptionally believable.

In short, I have a greater appreciation of Shakespeare than ever before.

Thank you and everyone involved for what you have given us all!

Congratulations!

Jack Weyland, LDS author and BYU-I faculty

It's so great--and a little unexpected--to be receiving so much praise for this show. It's such a great experience, and the show really is something special. And Wednesday night, for the benefit of those friends and family members unable to see the show, we filmed it! Although that makes us as actors nervous and consequently made us made up in little ways---losing a blood container onstage, speaking a line with an ill-placed pause after the word "bosom," Jacob's make-up wart falling off his forehead shortly after an entrance, forcing him to carry it around in his hand for the rest of the scene, etc. But we were excited to be doing another performance. Despite it taking up so much time, we're all in love with the experience, it seems.

The problems started with the fog machine.

We just ran out of CO2 a day or two ago, so we were using a brand new tank. The fog machine is used from the very beginning of the show, and there was a lot of fog there. But it usually calms down. And it did, for the most part.

Even though the combination of the unusually warm theatre and the slightly excessive use of fog caused one audience member to pass out during the first half of the show. That, and she had just given plasma. Or something. Either way, it was...distracting? Yeah, that's a good word for it. Distracting.

Shortly after intermission, we three weird sisters gathered onstage for the famous "Double double toil and trouble" scene, which involves a cauldron and a lot of fog. The actors who come out of the cauldron occasionally get a mouth/lungful of stage fog, which is mostly harmless, just irritating. Well, tonight, EVERYONE got a mouth/lungful. The fog just kept going.

And going.

And going.

And going.

There were at least 8 people crawling around underneath the stage, unplugging cords, adjusting knobs, and trying to get the fog machine to stop. But it was possessed by the spirit of the curse of Macbeth, and simply would not be stopped. That, and the fact that no one could even see their hand in front of their face down there.

And soon, no one could see a thing ONSTAGE either. At one point, David was about 10 feet away from me, and I COULDN'T SEE HIM. By the time everyone was exiting the stage for that scene, you couldn't see where the edges of the stage were, which was terrifying. But everyone made it off safely, and everyone who could got out from underneath the stage, and we opened every door of the theatre we could afford to open, in an attempt to "air us out" a bit.

So next scene of adventure...the murder of the Macduffs. It's still pretty foggy, but we proceed with the scene. Then, the moment that Lady Macduff is being stabbed in the stomach---

BEEEEP!!! BEEEEP!!! BEEEEP!!! BEEEEP!

The fire alarm.

Yep.

The fire alarm.

Unsure of how to proceed, the cast carries on with the scene. Kind of. The family is murdered among flashing lights and piercing sirens. Poor Carrie is onstage, recently murdered, when Gabe comes on, like he's supposed to, and whispers to her "What the hell are we going to do?!" Finally, Joe Bidwell seemingly appears out of the fog and announces to the audience that we're going to hold the show and evacuate.

Since we have to by law.

So the cast exits the side door, and the audience the other door, and we wait in the cold, frustrated but laughing hysterically. It had just snowed, but luckily, we're all in heavy wool Scottish costumes, so we were all right. FINALLY, the alarm is silent and we shuffle back into the building.

We're milling around the greenroom for a moment, waiting for instructions, when...

BEEEEP!!! BEEEEP!!! BEEEEP!!! BEEEEP!

Back outside we go!

After a minute or two, it stops, so we start back inside, when...

BEEEEP!!! BEEEEP!!! BEEEEP!!! BEEEEP!

And...you get the idea. About 20 minutes of on again/off again alarm.

I could tell you about it in more detail, but this video captures it pretty perfectly:


But here's the cool thing. It was funny, and it was an adventure, but we weren't sure if we'd be able to finish the show, and if we could, how long it would take us to get back into the flow of it. In the back of all of our minds (and in the front of some of our minds) was the genuine worry for the rest of our performance. One of the cast members suggested a prayer. We gathered and knelt in the greenroom, and Seth asked that we be able to do a meaningful and powerful performance, and thanked the Lord for the opportunity we have to do this show in the first place.

And that prayer was answered. =)

The fog machine calmed down, the haze dissipated, the audience returned to the theatre, and we did the rest of the show, as if the "alarum bell" adventure had never happened.

To conclude this entry, I share one more letter of "accolades" from an audience member who was there the night of the fiasco:

Roger,

Thanks for a great evening of theater and bringing Shakespeare to life. I was riveted throughout the production. I have seen many shows these past several years at BYU-Idaho.

For me, this was one of the highlights. The production was engaging from every perspective—the staging, the effects, the acting. It was such fun to see everything come together and to enjoy the remarkable talents of your students.

And what would Macbeth be without a bit of bad luck. The fire alarm helped to carry on the tradition . . . innocuously!

Best, Kip Hartvigsen, English Dept. Faculty

Despite the mishaps and supposed "bad luck" attached to Macbeth, it's still one of the most rewarding theatrical experiences of my life. And I'm so glad to be a part of this cast.

PS: We filmed again another night. Sans fire alarums.

4 comments:

Lauren said...

oh how I love reading your posts, I feel as if I am being told 1st hand in the living room of the haumps. Glad to know life is grand and the stage is treating you kindly.

Kathleen said...

How can we watch the video???

Liz-a-nator said...

You should just be able to click it...singly or doubly? I don't know why it wouldn't be working...

Seth Nehring said...

A note on the prayer. . . just as we knelt down to pray the alarm stopped long enough for us to finish the prayer. It was such an amazing moment to be there with the whole cast kneeling in prayer and to be heard and blessed for our faith in seeking the Lord's help. Gah! I love you guys!

-Seth Nehring