An Interview between London Griffith, Producer of M. Beth Productions & Kyla McHale, Director of M.Beth.
At the start of this project, we knew, as producers, that we wanted an all female cast of Macbeth, what we didn’t know was what direction it would go in or where to ultimately begin. Luckily we were able to find and tap Kyla McHale, a marvelous director with great vision and ideas, helped us form this production into one we are excited to share with the 14Y Community. Kyla and I had a frank conversation about this project, what we initially thought of it, what challenges it presented, and what it has ultimately become.
When we first came to you with the idea of doing an all female Macbeth you were a bit cautious and understandably so. What made you change your outlook and convince you to take on this project?
When I first heard the idea I was hesitant as Lady Macbeth is always considered one of the strongest women in Shakespeare’s cannon. I wasn’t sure how it would work out when you surround her with other women.
However, at the first reading I realized that there are many more nuances to Lady M that became more apparent once you added in additional female roles. Also once you eliminate that male/female gendered factor, the play becomes a more interesting investigation into power and why and how people seek it out. In the past I have looked at Macbeth as a play about a man who goes crazy for power. But when I wasn’t thinking of Macbeth as a man I began to ask, “Why seek this power? What instigates this rush to the throne?”
You’ve done some amazing work for us, and not only are you directing this production, but you were the key player in adapting the play. With the pillar of an all female cast, what challenges did this present in adapting the play, and what surprises has this brought in rehearsals?
There are a ridiculous amount of characters in this play. Many who enter for only one or two scenes and then disappear. It made it hard to keep track of everyone, as well as, gain any sort of empathy for some of these characters. By stripping many of those people away, or grouping them together into one character, I’ve found we have a really strong ensemble of characters, and it’s cool to see their journeys. One of the most exciting adaptations we’ve made is changing all existing exposition into news headlines or tweets.
One of the major elements of Macbeth is the fighting and the language used to describe the fights. This is a more modern adaptation where swords and daggers are not the norm— what aspects of the fights in this play have proven challenging, and what have they revealed about the characters and the world of the play?
I was worried about this element at first but once we began brainstorming with our fight director, Grace Clower, ideas kept popping up. We also had some interesting discussions about how women generally fight differently than men, how the witches and their manipulation of social media could be made concrete. All of it has resulted in some very passionate fights. They have me squirming in my seat and I think you’ll agree— they definitely fit into our modernized world.
In regards to the world of the play, it’s very much focused on social media and the influence it possesses. Why do you think this is so supported by the original text and what about this will surprise the audience?
As I mentioned earlier having all women made me ask the question, “what incites Macbeth and Lady Macbeth down their dark path to power?” I realized the answer in the text is the Witches, who appear and tell Macbeth that he will be Thane and King, and he believes them so intensely that he and Lady M then take drastic actions to make it true. This seemed ridiculous. When do people hear one false claim and not only believe it but take action to make it true, to the point of violence? However, in our current time, I realized there are several instances in which this is currently happening. Whether in Pizzagate, when an internet conspiracy theory drove a man to bring an AR-15 style rifle into a pizza shop threatening everyone until they could disprove the story, or in Myanmar, where a genocide has been incited using false social media accounts— not only has fake news taken over, but people’s manipulation of the internet, social media, and the stories told have real life consequences sometimes violent. Once I began to think of the witches as these social media bots come to life, manipulating Macbeth and the world to believe what will incite the most chaos, it all seemed to make sense why Macbeth takes drastic action in response the witches prophecies.
Alright, EVERYONE loves the Witches in Macbeth. We’re doing something really cool with this incarnation of the Weird Sisters. Where did the idea originally manifest and how has it changed?
Well, I’ve already discussed how the witches are social media come to life and how they are manipulating the media to influence the characters. We also added witches, inspired by the line of text, “thrice to thine and thrice to mine and thrice again, to make up nice.” We have 9 witches— who take over several minor characters who then manipulate the major ones, like the murders of lords of the court. They are often present and playing with reality, or pushing fake news. Just like how social media has permeated every element of our modern lives, the witches are permeating the entire play.
I, myself, am a huge fan of Shakespeare. Why do you think audiences keep coming back for more of the same story they have heard and seen again and again?
I am also a huge fan of Shakespeare! Stories are how humans communicate and Shakespeare is one of our best storytellers. This makes his stories great vessels, holding within them many smaller tales, which can be highlighted. Small changes bring new elements to light, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of his plays and thought, “Ah, that’s exactly how I’ve seen it before.” They’re never the same. Also there is something comforting to hearing a familiar tale in a new way. I mean, do you ever grow tired of pizza or chocolate chip cookies? 🙂
Ultimately, this is a play about ambition and power. What do you think will resonate most with the audience?
I hope one thing that will stick with the audience is how easy it is to be manipulated by media and go down a dark path, if we’re not cautious. It’s important to double-check our news sources, to check our gut reactions to clickbait, to be aware of when you are being manipulated, and to take a step back before falling down the rabbit hole. I think M.Beth has some good models in Macduff and Malcolm, as they carefully avoid the drama, step back to assess and also to feel their emotions fully.
Friday, March 29 – Saturday, April 6
Directed by Kyla McHale
Adapted by Kyla McHale & Patrick Marran
Based on William Shakespeare’s Macbeth
General Admission: $25 online / $30 at Door
Groups of 5 or more 10% off with code 5PLUS
Groups of 10 or more 20% off with code 10PLUS