The Truman State University theatre department is putting on a production of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” with several twists in store, including a gender swapped cast and greater use of audiovisual effects.
The play will run Nov. 13-15 with performances at 8 p.m. each night in the James G. Severns Theatre in Ophelia Parrish Building.
The production will feature a cast of mostly gender swapped roles, where male actors will play female characters and female actors will play male characters.
This casting decision fills the practical need for more roles played by women because Truman’s theatre department has more women than men, Director David Goyette said.
One goal of the play is to address the issue of limited female representation in the theatre, especially in more substantial roles, which is also a concern in film and television, Goyette said.
The decision to cast roles regardless of gender was also made to open up a dialogue in the theatre department about casting, gender, identity and how to make compelling choices that resonate with today’s audiences.
“As a theatre department, I think that it’s a part of our duty and mission to be a part of the change to provide those opportunities for female actors to change and improve and grow as performers,” Goyette said.
Lead actors Courtney Klein and Max Richards, who play the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth respectively, both said they thought the gender swapped casting opened up opportunities for actors to play roles they never thought they would be able to play.
Klein said the gender swapped casting motivated actors to push themselves and try new things as they worked to inhabit their roles. Actors were able to branch out and challenge themselves in ways they had not done before.
“You kind of have to break down your barriers and build them up again just trying to break through these characters,” Klein said.
While some people were immediately excited by the idea of gender swapping the cast, others were more hesitant at first.
Cameron Smith, the actor playing the role of Ross, was initially hesitant about the gender swapped casting because of what it would mean for the power dynamics between characters in the play.
After seeing how the play has come together, however, Smith said the casting worked out well.
“I don’t think we have really paid attention to the gender, or at least we have actively tried not paying attention to people’s gender, just playing the characters as the characters, which is the best thing to do when you do these sort of changes, because you are trying to tell these people’s stories, you are not trying to change them,” Smith said.
One goal of the play is to respond to and comment on outside influences like the current political state of the U.S., as well as the local community, Goyette said.
“The play is very political, or at least we’ve been trying to make it very political about what’s currently going in the administration that’s currently running our country,” Richards said.
The director of the play is interested in holding up a mirror to society while bringing a modern lens to a classic tale, Smith said.
Goyette said the goal of the play is to show the tools a tyrannical leader uses to control the masses, and to make people think about the little things they do everyday that either reflect or do not reflect their values.
Richards said he hopes people will come to the play with an open mind, see the diverse group of people involved in the production and see what the department is trying to accomplish through the play.
“I think that’s just the nature of any theatrical piece that is intended to make an audience reflect on society and on themselves and on their own personal beliefs,” Klein said.
The audiovisual effects, set designs and costumes of the play also reflect a mix of modern and classical styles, Richards said.
The performance will heavily feature colorful lighting, projections onto the stage alongside the actors and modern accompanying musical pieces, Klein said.
The costumes will be mostly period costumes of the early 1600s Jacobian era when Shakespeare wrote the play, but the play will also incorporate 21st century technology like cell phones into the performance, Smith said.
Though the play attempts to subvert some elements through casting and technology, the script has remained true to the script Shakespeare wrote. Aside from cuts for timing purposes, the actors and director are using the original text to bring the play closer to what Shakespeare intended, Goyette said.
“It is still a production of ‘Macbeth’ it is not anything else but that,” Smith said.
The blend of modern and classical elements gives audiences a more relatable story with which they can identify, Smith said.
Tickets for the play are available at the Theatre Box Office through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the main lobby of Ophelia Parrish Building.