March 2020 saw a big-double first for a Mended Wing show--a stationary tragedy! I was eager to experiment with the kinds of playing we've used on the past three tours with some darker and heavier material, with a cast of professional actors from Atlanta and Seattle.
The thought went something like this: MacB is always going to kill a bunch of people, Lady M will always kill herself at the end, MacB will be betrayed by the prophecies that brought him so much, all of those are facts of the plot, so we don't have belabor how sad or scary or creepy things are. Instead we tried to find as much levity, as much silliness as we could, and as we did began to realize that Macbeth is a play about a guy who would be alright if ever slowed down to think about his decisions. At every moment Macbeth is about to make the right choice, he is interrupted, distracted, frightened.
This farcical pile-up of bad choices drives the play along and keeps the audience more or less with the guy even when he's murdering left and right. This kind of approach is something I've always championed in theory, and finally I got the chance to play with it a little, to exciting results.
I had been working on this Five-Actor cut of the script since spring of 2018 when I was still living in Seattle, and Taige Lauren, an actor I when I directed Measure for Measure, had been involved in readings of the cut from the beginning. While most of my small cast cuttings of Shakespeare plays are based mostly on necessity, I had an idea to do something cool and gimmicky with the witches and the M'Beths being the only "real" characters. So I started paring the script down, and after almost two years we got to work on it in January 2020.
Of course ideas evolved, gimmicks were dropped, inherent patterns emerged, and I began to think of this production of Macbeth as a kind of experiment, refining my ideas on the script, for some future production with more of a design budget. By the end of the process our 70-minute version of this play is a script and a concept I would like to further develop, now that we've worked the kinks out.
And I guess that's the point here, Mended Wing is experimental--not intentionally weird or abstract--but experimental in the concrete, scientific sense. We're exploring what works with Shakespeare, using a process that refines a little every time, and I never feel like the experiment is done when the play closes.
Even now when we have had to cancel our annual spring tour due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the experiment continues. We are currently developing a series of live-stream readings for zoom or a similar medium.
And when it's safe to return to touring we will be back on the road with a little more experience!