Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Utah Shakespeare Festival Blog – Drew Shirley as Macbeth for the Tour production



Drew Shirley, who is playing Macbeth in our Tour production, has appeared here at the Festival for 4 seasons. Last year, he was in Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night, and Sherlock Holmes: the Final Adventure. He earned his BFA at Emporia State University and his MFA in acting at University of Illinois. While he has participated in a school tour for the Kingsman Shakespeare Company, this will be his first tour where they travel in a van and visit 5 states in 3 months.

We chatted with Drew, right after the first two performances: one at the Iron County Correctional Facility in front of ten young inmates and one for the Iron County schools with over 900 kids.

Tell us your thoughts about Shakespeare and this play.

First – in high school, I hated Shakespeare (like many kids). It wasn’t until I worked here in 2008 that I realized how incredible Shakespeare can be. When you see it done well, it can be life changing!
Shirley (Macbeth) &
Harris (Lady Macbeth)

Our production of Macbeth is a high octane train ride to hell. It moves really fast. The first half is like a ghost story or a fable. The second half is the descent into insanity, war and hell.

And it’s not a morality play. Shakespeare often shows us the opposite side of the same coin; no one is all good or all evil. It makes it more interesting. The play is about making decisions and the consequences of those decisions. All of us make the “easy” decision – the little evils that we do. Macbeth makes the “easy” decision to kill the king. And then it all unravels.

What are your thoughts on touring?

I think it’s important for the kids. I figure there’s someone like me out there who hates Shakespeare. I have a shot to make him/her fall in love – it could be life changing.

With live theatre, there is something asked of the audience. It’s not like a movie. If they stay with us for the first ten minutes to get through the language, then they will be hooked and stay with us.

I also believe it’s important for adult actors to work with the kids in the workshops. We can show that acting isn’t just selfish but that we can help people. I’ll teach the Improv and Shakespeare Text workshops.

What about the different venues?

Voss (Macduff) &
Shirley (Macbeth)
We have to be really careful with the fights because each school and venue will be different. They are stage fights, but it is contact fighting, so it can be scary if we don’t practice. And I have to worry about breathing when I’m “dead.” I’m always afraid I’ll cough.

I know we’ll have challenges on the road – flat tires, breakdowns, lighting or sound that doesn’t work. So we have to be totally in the moment and chose how to respond. We have a really good group of people with a good balance of skills and temperaments so I know we’ll be fine.

The Tour departed Cedar City on January 22 for Las Vegas. After two weeks there, they will hit the road, visiting five states with 65 performances . You can learn more about the tour at

#utahshakes #shakestour

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Utah Shakespeare Festival Blog – Marco Vega – Banquo in Macbeth on Tour



Marco Vega, who plays Banquo in the tour production of Macbeth, hails from Northern UT. He was born in Provo and grew up in American Fork. He’s a SUU alum and appeared at the Festival last summer in all three Shakespeare plays: Comedy of Errors, Henry IV, Part I and Measure for Measure.

He’s appearing in his first Macbeth and traveling on his first tour. Here are his thoughts about the upcoming tour.   

What are you looking forward to the most?

I'm looking forward to performing this show to a wide range of people. Usually it's one "type" of audience you perform for. Also, I look forward to all the shenanigans we as a cast will get into :) 

What are some challenges that you might run into while on the road?

Lack of sleep and quiet time. 

Banquo costume sketch
by Leinicke
How do you make this story relevant for school age kids?

 By doing it well. I think that Shakespeare is totally relevant today- it's just hard to connect to because the language Shakespeare uses. I believe if we do it well, if we can reach them from behind our text they'll see something they didn't expect. 

What do you hope the audiences will take-away from your production?

I simply hope they walk away more open to live theater and to Shakespeare. 

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

I would have the power to understand and speak any language.
Tour Company

Anything else?

We'll perform this show 89 times. 4 months. 5 states. 10 people. 80 minutes of "Go" every time. Pray for us.




You can follow Marco and the rest of the Tour company at http://www.bard.org/education/tour.html and by following the Festival on Twitter @utahshakes and Facebook www.facebook.com/utahshakespeare

#utahshakes #shakestour

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Utah Shakespeare Festival Blog - Quinn Mattfeld Talks about Macbeth



When you hear Quinn Mattfeld’s name, you might think of an incredibly gifted actor who has played many roles here at the Festival, including Blackstache in the 2012 production of Peter and the Starcatcher, Robert in last fall’s Boeing Boeing  or Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility last summer. And you’d be right. And Quinn is much more. He’s taught Shakespeare for 4 years at Pacific Conservatory Theatre’s PCPA and he’s directed there as well as here in the New American Playwright’s Project.

So it’s no surprise that he’s directing this year’s tour production of Macbeth. Quinn and the rest of the company arrived in Cedar City on December 28 (brrrr – temps in single digits and snow on the ground) and started rehearsals immediately in preparation for the tour, which begins on January 21.

We recently talked with Quinn about his vision for Macbeth in this 75-minute production.

Tell us about your familiarity with Macbeth…

I’ve appeared in it twice. First, I was a senior in college – I played Macbeth. At the age of 21, I had no business playing Macbeth and it was probably the worst ever. Then in 2010, I played Malcolm here at the Festival.

For the last 4 years, I’ve taught Shakespeare at PCPA and used this play as a cornerstone. It’s such a fantastic play. So I know most of it by heart.

What’s your vision or concept for this production?

Shirley as Macbeth
Rehearsal
The backdrop is birch trees – stark, black and white. There are two islands that move. The backdrop is a curtain. It’s a forest in winter and a moral wilderness.

People say this play is about ambition. But the word “ambition” is only used twice. I think it’s about the consequences of taking action – the before and after. It’s a moral wilderness. Everyone has something happen - actions create consequences. For example: Macduff goes to England because he wants to save Scotland. And his family dies as a result. He went with good intentions but his family died.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth go all in to get what they want - they kill the king but at the cost of her sanity and for Macbeth - his soul. It’s like Into the Woods – I’m using Into the Woods as a way of understanding the before and after. Macbeth has a number of moments to make new decisions – he keeps getting the opportunity to go back, but he doesn’t.

How do you make this play relevant for the students?

Macbeth (Shirley) &
Lady Macbeth (Harris)
Rehearsal
I think the way to make it relevant is we do it well.  I feel like I could understand the most complexity in my life when I was in high school. This play happens in a moral wilderness and there is no better place to understand that than high school. If we just are worthy of the story it will be relevant. Every single scene has something to watch.

There is plenty of spectacle: fight scenes and ghosts that come back. There’s a bunch of neat imagination engaging things that I think are spectacular and they work in a theatric way instead of a cinematic way.

Other thoughts?

It feels like a cycle. At the beginning of the show, Macbeth, who is the hero of the country, kills the traitor of the country. The end of the play, Macbeth has become the traitor and is killed by Macduff who has become the hero of the country.

The one thing I’m trying to highlight in the show is that it all turns on decisions. We don’t realize the consequences til after. Macbeth is able to look back. In his “tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow” speech the first thing he says about his wife “she should have died hereafter…” it’s the first time that he’s thinking in “should and would”. It’s like he’s apologizing to his wife for not telling her “no”, for not stepping back and saying “we’re not doing this”. It’s the everyday decisions that lead to consequences you can’t see til it happens.

Thanks Quinn!

The Tour will have a public performance in Cedar City on January 21 at 7:30pm. Tickets are only $5 and can be purchased by calling the ticket office at 800-PLAYTIX. The company then departs, traveling through five states until April. You can see the entire schedule at http://www.bard.org/education/tour.html.

In upcoming blogs, we’ll talk with Drew Shirley, who plays Macbeth and Natascha Harris, who plays Lady Macbeth.

#utahshakes #shakestour

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Utah Shakespeare Festival’s Educational Tour Presents Macbeth



The Utah Shakespeare Festival is once again hitting the road with its Shakespeare-in-the-Schools touring production—this year performing the classic tragedy, Macbeth. 

From January to April, the Festival will take its production of Macbeth to more than 25,000 students in five western states. The tour will spend 14 weeks on the road visiting schools, community centers, and correctional facilities across Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Colorado and Arizona with over 65 performances for 120 schools. Directing this year is Quinn Mattfeld, who has been as an actor on the Festival’s stages for many seasons and directed last year’s New American Playwright Project play, Breakout.

To kickoff the tour, the play will be performed for the public in the Auditorium Theatre at Southern Utah University on January 21 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $5 for general admission and may be obtained by calling the Festival’s ticket office at 1-800-PLAYTIX or 435-586-7878.

In its 17th year, this educational outreach program features a 75-minute version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, including complete costumes, sets, and theatrical lighting. Also included is a fifteen-minute post-show discussion with the actors and optional workshops in Stage Combat, Performing Shakespeare's Text, Technical Theatre and Developing Character through Improvisation.

“This is a play about a man who walks into the darkness and becomes it,” said Mattfeld. “We all fear that the mistakes we make in our lives will come back to haunt us. For Macbeth and his wife, the haunting is literal.”

When asked why perform Macbeth Mattfled said, “there is so much room for storytelling, I am interested in doing a theatrically dynamic production, that immediately engages the audience’s imagination.”  

Scenic Designer and Props Director Ben Hohman was inspired by images of black and white birch trees for the set, which will create an eerie ambience for this play. Costume Designer Christina Leinicke is exploring the concept of light verses dark in the costumes, as well as incorporating images of the Three Fates into the witch’s costume. Actors off stage will be creating the percussive scoring themselves as part of transitions, dramatic punctuations and the necessary sound effects.

Ten professionals from all over the country are coming together to bring this production to students. The company consists of seven actors, a company manager, a stage manager, and a technical director.

Oswald & Shirley
2014 Comedy of Errors
Six cast members were seen in this past 2014 season at the Festival: Drew Shirley (Macbeth) was Antipholus of Ephesus in The Comedy of Errors and Antonio in Twelfth Night; he received his M.F.A in acting at the University of Illinois. Natasha Harris (Lady Macbeth) was Juliet in Measure for Measure, Florinda in Into the Woods, and ensemble in Henry IV Part One; she received her B.A. at the University of California, Irvine. Sceri Ivers (Witch) performed in The Greenshow, Into the Woods and Sense and Sensibility; Sceri will be receiving her B.F.A in musical theatre at Southern Utah University in 2015. Marco Antonio
Vega (Banquo) performed in The Comedy of Errors, Henry IV Part One, and Measure for Measure; Marco received his B.S. in theatre from Southern Utah University. Eric Weiman (Malcolm) was in The Comedy of Errors and Twelfth Night; he received his B.F.A. at the University of Minnesota/Guthrie. Molly Wetzel (Lady Macduff) performed in The Greenhow, Lucinda in Into the Woods, and Sense and Sensibility; she received her B.F.A in musical theatre and minor in dance from Otterbein University.
Eberlein, Harris, Harding
2014 Measure for Measure

Andrew Voss (Duncan and MacDuff) is new to the Festival. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and has worked at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival and Great Lakes Theatre. 

The support crew is Sam Callery (technical director) who graduated from California University of Pennsylvania and is working in New York City as a lead electrician. Stephanie Ellis (company manager) is a University of Utah Alumni, and Bryan Sommer (stage manager) has worked at the Festival for five years as an assistant stage manager and production assistant and is an alumnus of Southern Utah University.
In addition to support from the Shakespeare for a New Generation program which is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, this tour’s school performance partners are the Utah State Office of Education: Professional Outreach Programs in the Schools, Mountain West Small Business Finance, Ally Bank, and UBS Bank. Mountain America Credit Union is serving as the community performance sponsor. 
 Over the next few weeks, we'll interview Quinn Mattfeld, the director, as well as Natasha Harris (Lady Macbeth) and Drew Shirley (Macbeth).
For a complete tour schedule visit http://www.bard.org/education/tour.html.

Costume sketches by Christina Leinicke

#shakesontour #utahshakes