Artistic Director Barbara Gaines Stages William Shakespeare’s
January 2 – March 8, 2009
ChicagoDecember 1, 2008Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) continues the season in 2009 with William Shakespeare’s monumental tragedy Macbeth, staged by CST Artistic Director Barbara Gaines. Returning to Chicago Shakespeare’s Elizabethan thrust stage and leading the cast of 30 is Canadian classical actor Ben Carlson, previously seen at CST in his Joseph Jefferson Award-winning performance in the title role of Hamlet. Tickets are $44–70 and can be purchased by calling Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Box Office at 312.595.5600 or by visiting the Theater’s website at www.chicagoshakes.com.
Macbeth, one of Shakespeare’s most enduring and haunting plays, follows a nobleman’s astonishing transformation from hero to tyrannical murderer. Struggling between honor and ambition, persuaded by the steady manipulation of his wife, and encouraged by a prophesied destiny, Macbeth succumbs to his desire for the ultimate power that is within his grasp.
One of Shakespeare’s most frequently staged plays, Macbeth has been variously interpreted over the centuries—from Giuseppe Verdi’s 1847 opera to Chicago Shakespeare’s 2007 commissioned Marionette Macbeth, co-produced with Italy’s famed Carlo Colla e Figli marionette company. Among the seminal productions of the twentieth century are Orson Welles’ 1936 staging of "voodoo" Macbeth, and Akira Kurosawa’s classic film, Throne of Blood, which sets the story of samurai warriors in medieval Japan. Barbara Gaines’ production brings the story into 2009 steeped in power politics and greed, familiar to today’s audience. Urban warfare takes the place of medieval broadswords, and the electronic media controls our fates as witches once revealed truths and defined destinies for the audiences of Shakespeare’s time.
As founder and artistic director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Barbara Gaines has directed more than 30 of William Shakespeare’s plays throughout her career. This production will mark the first of two original stagings of Macbeth by Gaines: the upcoming Chicago Shakespeare production and a new production of Verdi’s Macbeth, featuring Thomas Hampson in the title role, for the 2010/11 season of the Lyric Opera in Chicago. Her most recent directorial accomplishment at Chicago Shakespeare Theater—Čthe 2008 staging of The Comedy of Errors—garnered four Joseph Jefferson Awards, including Best Production and Best Director of a Play. In partnership with Executive Director Criss Henderson, she has broadened the Theater’s artistic programming to encompass—alongside Shakespeare’s canon—theatrical presentations for students and families, musicals and collaborations with international theater artists. Recognized for its continuous level of artistic achievement contributing to the growth of theatre nationally, CST received the 2008 Regional Theatre Tony Award—one of the most coveted honors in the entertainment industry. In 2007 Gaines received the Public Humanities Award by the Illinois Humanities Council and in 2005 she was awarded the prestigious Honorary OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in recognition of her contributions strengthening British-American cultural relations.
Canadian actor Ben Carlson will lead the cast of 30, performing the title role. A veteran classical actor, Carlson was seen by CST audiences in his Joseph Jefferson Award-winning performance in the title role of Hamlet in 2006. Carlson was a featured actor for many seasons at the Shaw Festival, where he played numerous roles, including Adolphus in Shaw’s Major Barbara, Jack Tanner in Man and Superman and Torvald Helmer in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, for which he won a Dora Award. As a current member of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, he recently received critical acclaim for his performance in the title role of Hamlet, staged by Adrian Noble. Carlson is joined by Karen Aldridge performing the role of Lady Macbeth. Earlier this season Aldridge appeared as Isabella in CST’s 2008 production of Edward II, directed by Sean Graney. Working extensively in Chicago, she has been seen at CST performing the roles of Matilda in Peter Brook’s 2002 production of Le Costume which toured over 17 countries, and Princess of France in Barbara Gaines’ 2002 production of Love’s Labor’s Lost.
Veteran Chicago Shakespeare actors returning to the Theater include: Patrick Clear (Troilus and Cressida, Measure for Measure) as Old Man/Doctor; William Dick (The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing) as Lenox; David Lively (Much Ado About Nothing, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2) as Duncan; and Mike Nussbaum (The Merchant of Venice, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2) as Witch/Porter. Additional cast members include: Rengin Altay as Lady Macduff; Phillip James Brannon as Malcolm; Kate Buddeke as Witch; Evan Buliung as Macduff; Danforth Comins as Banquo; Jeff Cummings as Angus; Erik Hellman as Donalbain; Joel Stanley Huff as Macdonwald; Angela Ingersoll as Witch; Carolyn Klein as Gentlewoman; Matthew Levy as Macduff’s Son; James Newcomb as Ross; and EB Smith as Captain/Seyton. Rounding out the Ensemble are Walter Briggs, Annie Fitch Brandon Ford, Steve Lenz, and Kayla Roy; and the children will be played by Meredith Droeger, Grant Mitchell, Joshua Heinlein, Noah Schwartz, Elodie Tougne, and Theo Tougne.
In the European tradition, Mark Bailey—designing both set and costumes—will bring this contemporary staging to life. Bailey, who also designed the set and costumes for CST’s 2006 production of Hamlet directed by Terry Hands, is an associate artist of Clwyd Theatr Cymru of Wales. His extensive UK credits include designs for the Young Vic, Nottingham Playhouse and Theatre Royal York. Macbeth’s world-class production team also includes: lighting design by Philip Rosenberg; sound design and original music composed by Lindsay Jones; fight choreography by Robin McFarquhar; projection design by Mike Tutaj; and wig and make-up design by Melissa Veal.
Programs in conjunction with performances of Macbeth include:
- PreAmble: half-hour introductory lectures on Macbeth presented by scholars will take place at 2:00 p.m. on select weekend dates (1/24, 1/25, 1/31, 2/1, 2/7, 2/8, 2/14, 2/15, 2/21, 2/22, 2/28, 3/1, 3/7, 3/8). Admission is free and reservations are not required.
- Cast Call: an informal discussion with the actors in the Theater’s Pub will be Friday, January 16, 2009 and Friday, February 27, 2009 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., prior to the 7:30 p.m. curtain. Admission is free. No reservations are required.
- Post-show discussions follow each Wednesday 1:00 p.m. performance. Admission is free. No reservations are required.
- The audio-described performance for patrons with visual impairments will be held on Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. Patrons should reserve a headset when purchasing tickets in advance. "Access Shakespeare" tickets are $27.
- The duo sign-interpreted performance for patrons with hearing impairments will be held on Friday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m. Patrons should request the specific seating area when purchasing tickets in advance. "Access Shakespeare" tickets are $35.
Macbeth begins previews on Friday, January 2, 2009. The press performance is on Friday, January 9, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. with performances scheduled through Sunday, March 8, 2009. For further information and to purchase tickets, call the Box Office at 312.595.5600 or visit the Theater’s website at www.chicagoshakes.com.
Macbeth Production Sponsor: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois.
Team Shakespeare Student Matinees of Macbeth are sponsored by Kraft Foods and Nuveen Investments, with additional support from Sheila Penrose and Ernie Mahaffey.
American Airlines is the official airline of Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
ComEd is the official lighting design sponsor of Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
Artistic productions in the Courtyard Theater are supported, in part, through a generous grant from the McCormick Foundation.