The Scottish play: IU students bring ‘Macbeth’ back to life

Posted: Sunday, January 31, 2016
By Madeline Dippel Special to the H-T


Ian Martin and Ross Rebennack clashing in “Macbeth”

Clang, clang, clang.

Soldiers emerge upon a rounded stage, painted to resemble the grassy fields of Scotland, and fight, drawing attention.

Clang, clang, clang.

The swords clash together while shields are used for protection.

Clang, clang, clang.

Only three remain in the moss-topped setting.

This year celebrates the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, a man famous for his romances, comedies and dramas including “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet” and “Macbeth.”

The tale of “Macbeth,” a Scottish general coping with internal conflicts, betrayal, murder and the supernatural, is a classic one and has been performed countless times.

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Ian Martin is Macbeth (Photo by Joely Pope)

Director David Kote, a third-year MFA directing candidate, said he inquired about directing the play after the theater department chose “Macbeth” to be brought to life at the Indiana University.

“I wanted a challenge,” he said.

A major challenge in this production was how to make this performance different: how to make the performance stand out.

Kote said he wanted to keep it classical and contemporary — to merge the two together for a new experience.

Student composer and second-year graduate student Kim Osberg said the costume design combines high fashion with small patches of Scottish plaid, updating the show without losing any of its history.


Lady Macbeth (Abby Lee)

“We wanted to do more than just a play,” Kote said. “We wanted to make it an immersive experience … a Macbeth experience.”

The immersive performance begins with the audience encompassing the stage, the classic drama being presented in the round, with speakers placed to surround the audience and to envelop them in the sound.

With any performance, the sound can be an important aspect, and this is emphasized when the audience is surrounded by it.


Malcolm ( Jason Craig West)

“Sound in this play is really important … it’s almost like a character,” Kote said.

Many times, a live orchestra plays the sounds in performances, but because the play is set in the round, an orchestra would be difficult to place.

Kote and Osberg worked together on an opera she wrote that was previously performed at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.

So Kote approached Osberg to help compose the music and work with the sound.

“(The audience) can feel the mood through the music,” Osberg said. “Sound can completely draw someone into or push someone out of a moment.”

Osberg works with the music and the play so that they go together cohesively, through insinuating the mood and transitioning between scenes.

“When you work with live musicians, you have more flexibility … to stretch a moment, but with electronic sound, you have the ability to be more accurate and more consistent,” she said.

Osberg said the transitions are most difficult when she does not know how long the scenes are going to take, but the actors shouldn’t have to worry about anything.

“It’s really my job as the music person to make sure that I’m reacting to what they’re doing on stage,” she said.

“I think the most challenging parts of the play are also the most rewarding.”

Working on the play motivated Osberg to do the best job she can, to find her voice and make it cohesive, she said.

“I have had wonderful support and training,” Kote said. “The professors have taken time to nurture what talent I already had.”

Reprinted with permission from The Herald Times. Original article available at The Herald Times Online.

About IU Theatre Department

Welcome to the 7th & Jordan blog. This blog is a peek behind the curtain at the productions and people at Indiana University's Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance.
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