OU School of Drama to perform ‘Mac Beth,’ a Shakespeare adaptation exploring gender roles, violence | Culture | #schoolsaftey

Editor’s Note: This show contains violence and gore, and is intended for a mature audience.

The OU Helmerich School of Drama production of “Mac Beth” opens Tuesday in the E. Frank Gilson Lab Theatre, presenting a fresh take on a Shakespeare classic.

Written by contemporary playwright Erica Schmidt, the show tells the story of a group of teenagers meeting in an abandoned lot to act out Macbeth as part of a club.

“Mac Beth” is directed by Kate Busselle, assistant professor of movement, intimacy and violence. The play is loosely based on the 2014 Slender Man stabbings, in which two 12-year-old girls believed the urban legend Slender Man told them to sacrifice their friend, according to Busselle.

“It’s kind of based off that idea that young girls are really dangerous if you give them unprotected power,” Busselle told OU Daily. “That essence of how far will girls go if they’re not supervised.”

Schmidt’s script places women in the roles men play in Shakespeare’s original, but Busselle wanted to push further past gender roles. 

“In the original script it says seven high school girls specifically,” Busselle said. “I also wanted to open up to (transgender) and gender-nonconforming individuals to be part of the cast as well, rather than be very restrictive of what our idea is of a girl.”

In Schmidt’s adaptation, the actors simultaneously play their high school character and a character from Macbeth.

Junior acting major Victoria Kmeic as Lady Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth is played by junior acting major Victoria Kmiec, who said she has enjoyed exploring different gender dynamics and how they relate to emotion.

“When men are angry, it’s seen as normal, and that’s just a man being a man,” Kmiec told OU Daily. “But when women are angry, it’s this evil, sinister thing and you do see that in this play.”

Busselle said that violent women are usually portrayed in theater for comedic purposes. However, “Mac Beth” is a drama, and Busselle said Schmidt wanted to shed light on the ways women experience anger and show the audience the realistic nature of violent women.

“Teenage girls can absolutely be lured into some really dangerous and dark places,” Busselle said. “It’s not just men who experience these kind of violent fantasies.” 

Mac Beth Mackenna

Junior acting major Mackenna Shults as Macbeth.

Macbeth is played by junior acting major Mackenna Shults, who said portraying Macbeth as well as her high school counterpart has been challenging yet fun.

“That’s been a really big learning curve, figuring out who’s speaking which part,” Shults said. “Is it Macbeth, or is it the girl playing Macbeth, or is it pushing the boundary a little bit where it’s like Macbeth, but it’s also the girl?”

Busselle said that the ensemble has been inventive in finding ways to make the scenes feel like exchanges between high school students, but that the show also includes “beautiful, quieter moments.” 

“In the middle of this very violent, combative, aggressive text, we have a moment of almost silence in the rain,” Busselle said. “We get to see the kids be kids.”

Shults said she thinks the audience can walk away having learned a lesson about selfish ambition. She believes the show can teach people that their wants and obsessions can lead to downfall. 

“I think the biggest takeaway from this show is how we deal with other people and how we treat others,” Shults said.

“Mac Beth” opens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14 in the E. Frank Gilson Lab Theatre and will also be performed at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15-18 and 2 p.m. Nov. 19. Tickets can be purchased at the Fine Arts Box Office or by calling 405-325-4101.

This story was edited by Emma Blakley. Ryan Little and Grace Rhodes copy edited this story.

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