What’s the “Directorial Concept?”
The real King Macbeth ruled Scotland around the turn of the first century. Shakespeare wrote The Tragedy of Macbeth at the turn of the 17th century, soon after James the 1st, a Scotsman, had become king of England. Shakespeare based much of his knowledge of Macbeth on a 1580’s history book called the Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland. According to this history, Macbeth’s friend Banquo was very evil, and helped him knock off the rightful king so Macbeth could assume power. Since James the 1st believed that he was a direct descendant of Banquo, it’s understandable that Shakespeare made a few changes.
So do we.
Instead of the desolate moors and castles of Scotland, we’ve decided to make our Macbeth occupy more familiar territory. For us the modern city becomes a metaphor for Shakespeare’s “foul and filthy air” and the story’s ever-present danger. Furthermore, we decided to focus on a theme in Macbeth that speaks clearly to a young cast– manhood and moral responsibility. Lady Macbeth wants to be more like a man and chides Macbeth for not being manly enough. Is manhood only to do with bravery, toughness, and the pursuit of one’s ambition, devoid of all empathy?
Last June, I heard what sounded like five firecrackers going off outside my second floor window. Like many that night, I called the police. It made no difference. This story appeared the next day:
Harlem Teen Killed Outside Peaceful Valley Garden
"A 15-year-old Harlem teen was shot and killed in front of his neighborhood community garden yesterday. The youth was shot in the torso while on the way to a corner store at East 117th Street and Madison Avenue around 9:30 p.m. His mother tells the News, "I came home and the streets are taped off and this feeling just hit me. I ran from Park Ave. This cop stopped me and I'm like, 'No!' and I pushed the cop out of the way. My brother—when I saw my brother—I knew."
No arrests have been made, but a witness said he heard five shots and then spotted three people dash down the street. Police have not identified a motive yet, but the victim had been shot in the hand last year, and had a prior arrest for robbery. His mother said he had fallen in with a bad crowd, but he wasn't a troublemaker, and she was trying to set him straight—nevertheless, gang violence plagues the neighborhood. "There is a war. If you live here on Madison, you can't walk on Lexington. It's another gang. He got jumped a couple of times," she said.
A makeshift memorial with fifteen candles was put up for the 10th grader where he was shot. The mother said her biggest fear, that her child would be killed, had come true, and warned other parents: “He’s not the first and he won’t be the last to die this summer, believe me, the streets is hot. There’s going to be a lot more deaths and a lot of mothers feeling the way I feel; I wish them all the best, no one deserves this.”
If we were to concentrate purely on Shakespeare’s tale as written and give a sincere depiction of a middle-ages middle-aged warrior’s murderous accent to the throne, we would all dress in cloaks and speak with 11th century Scottish accents. But we don’t. We decided, instead, to focus our awareness on how Shakespeare speaks to us, internally. A young, very American, very modern group of college students are eager to find the play’s human ideas, passion, and action within their own energy, history, and experience. We have all our lives to value everything that Shakespeare can give us, but only one short semester to find what we can truthfully give of ourselves to Shakespeare. If honestly undertaken, a single path that creates an affinity between Shakespeare and our inner selves can invite many more journeys in the future.
Macbeth is a tale that speaks to us today as its story is continually played out on the streets of our own neighborhoods — desire, betrayal, guilt, and revenge. The story follows the actions of an ambitious young man, his lust for success, and his ultimate need to understand himself and what it truly is to “be a man.”