APT performs Macbeth for freshman studies

Hannah Jastram

“So foul and fair a day I have not seen,” notes Macbeth in his first scene. On Oct. 14, the entire freshman class of Lawrence University joined local theater aficionados to watch Jim DeVita act out the title role of “that Scottish play.”
The American Players Theatre, under the direction of Kate Buckley, performed William Shakespeare’s Macbeth at the Fox Valley Performing Arts Center in downtown Appleton.
After the performance, some members of the audience moved to the facility’s Kimberly Clark Theatre for a “talk-back” with the actors and director. The first question was directed at the male actors: “What was it like to act in kilts?” Other questions focused on specific aspects of the performance, such as set design, costuming, and the score. Some questions addressed the themes of the play itself.
Reaction from the freshman class was lukewarm. Felicia Behm said, “I expected it to be better,” though she admitted she had never seen Shakespeare performed before. Marie Kaziunas, a more experienced Shakespearian theatergoer, said, “I liked it. I didn’t love it.” Paul Merley commented on the contemporary feel of the production, stating that the changes “made me look at the story in a different way. However, for those that wanted classic Shakespeare, this version might have been disappointing.”
On the other hand, most students seemed to find it helpful to see the play they’d been studying in class acted out onstage. “It definitely deepened my understanding because it really showed the emotions of the characters,” said Amanda Engle.
In the past, freshman studies classes have seen Shakespeare’s plays performed on campus by the Actors from the London Stage company.
Professor Dirck Vorenkamp, director of freshman studies, explained the change of venue. The APT had already scheduled their performances at the PAC when he began to think about coordinating the freshman studies classes. “It worked out very, very well from our perspective,” Vorenkamp said. He was pleased with the new location, saying, “The PAC is a beautiful facility.”
Octavia Driscoll, a sophomore theater buff, agreed. “I think it’s great that the freshman class got introduced to the PAC,” she said. “The PAC is an excellent resource.” Driscoll went on to contrast this year’s Shakespearian experience with last year’s, which was held on campus in Cloak Theatre: no costumes, no set, and the audience was physically very close to the cast. “That was incredibly beneficial,” she said.
Vorenkamp acknowledged the quality of the London actors. “Those folks are fantastic. What they do is truly amazing,” he said.
Vorenkamp then stressed the benefit of the more traditional PAC performance, explaining, “You get a flavor for how it’s often staged.”
Theatre arts fellow Annette Thornton noted her preference for a smaller venue, which might have been more exciting for a freshman than sitting in the balcony of the PAC. The resulting stronger connections, she argued, would be useful for students who were not as familiar with the play.
Thornton wasn’t entirely displeased with the performance, however. “The APT has an incredibly strong ensemble,” she said.
In the last act, Macbeth sighs, “I ‘gin to be aweary of the sun.” If freshmen found themselves to be aweary of the APT’s production of Macbeth, at least they can discuss amongst themselves how the production was foul rather than fair.

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