Augustana tackles “that Scottish play” this weekend

Local News

Keenan Ellis plays Macbeth in a new Augustana College production of the Shakespeare classic.

The Augustana College Department of Theatre presents William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Macbeth” (often known as the cursed “Scottish play”) Nov. 11-14 at the Brunner Theatre Main Stage Theatre, 3750 7th Ave., Rock Island.

The Thursday through Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday’s performance is at 1:30 p.m.

One of Shakespeare’s most powerful and enduring works, “Macbeth” is a fast-moving classic that explores the nature of ambition and guilt, love and loss, the past and future, and the price one couple is willing to pay in order to achieve their dreams, according to a college release.

The cast includes Keenan Ellis in the title role; Noel Jean Huntley as Lady Macbeth; Amy Nicholson as Ross; Titus Jilderda as Mourner/Malcolm; Roger Pavey Jr. as Banquo/Macduff/8 Kings/Crow/Mourner/Lennox; Eli Bates as Witch 1/Murderer 1/Menteith; Lauren Clarke as Witch 2/Murderer 2/Caithness, and Anya Giordano as Witch 3/Murderer 3/Donglekirk.

“Macbeth” at Augustana features Noel Huntley (Lady Macbeth), left, Sarah Crow, Emma Watts, Roger Pavey, Keenan Ellis, Arturo (A.J.) Perez, and Trinity Filut. 

“This is a collaborative piece, as my colleague, professor Shelley Cooper, is doing movement work with
our actors,” director Jennifer Popple said in a recent release. “Not only is it a dream to work with her, but the movement work she has brought to the play has elevated it beyond where I could have taken it, and helped bring some themes and moments to the surface that are so powerful.”

“Macbeth” has been cursed from the beginning, according to the Royal Shakespeare Company, which noted a coven of witches objected to Shakespeare using real incantations, so they put a curse on the play.

“Legend has it the play’s first performance (around 1606) was riddled with disaster,” the company’s site says. “The actor playing Lady Macbeth died suddenly, so Shakespeare himself had to take on the part. Other rumoured mishaps include real daggers being used in place of stage props for the murder of King Duncan (resulting in the actor’s death).

Roger Pavey (as Macduff), top, and Keenan Ellis (Macbeth) in the new production.

“The play hasn’t had much luck since. The famous Astor Place Riot in New York in 1849, caused by rivalry between American actor Edwin Forrest and English actor William Charles Macready, resulted in at least 20 deaths and over 100 injuries. Both Forrest and Macready were playing Macbeth in opposing productions at the time.”

Other productions have been plagued with accidents, including actors falling off the stage, mysterious deaths, and even narrow misses by falling stage weights, as happened to Laurence Olivier at the Old Vic in 1937.

Here’s hoping the Augie cast and crew emerge unscathed this weekend. Tickets are $10-15 each and can be purchased at Augustana.edu/tickets. For additional information, contact the Ticket Office at 309-794-7306. Masks will be required of all audiences until further notice.

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