Celebrating Halloween in addition to 10 years in the performing arts, Nevada Shakespeare Company will perform “Macbeth” at the Laxalt Auditorium at 8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday.
“It’s a Halloween play,” director Dave Weinberg said. “It’s the best horror movie in all history.”
Weinberg’s feelings on “Macbeth” are shared with Joe Atack, who in addition to playing Lord Macbeth is also the company manager of the acting troupe. Atack said he took on the role of Macbeth knowing he would need to do a lot of research to get into character.
“This production is kind of going back in time,” Atack said. “We’re looking at the 11th century.”
Weinberg said Nevada Shakespeare Company’s performance of Macbeth is going back to the play’s original time setting and essence.
“I’ve set the production during the reign of Macbeth in feudal Scotland between 1040 and 1057,” Weinberg said. “It was written in honor of James I and he was preoccupied with witchcraft. It is the only play of Shakespeare’s that deals with Scottish lore and witchcraft.”
In the tragedy, three witches in the forest predict Macbeth’s fate. Macbeth is distressed by the witches’ eerie prediction, but the events of the play are already set into motion. Love and greed result in death and guilt.
“(Macbeth) is very linear,” Atack said of the character, adding that Macbeth does not really think before he takes action. “What he does have is an incredibly powerful imagination.”
It is Macbeth’s vivid imagination that starts to unravel the character.
“In the production we have tried to make Lady Macbeth and Lord Macbeth as human as possible,” Atack said. “Macbeth is very compassionate towards his wife and he’s a real affable guy at the beginning of the play.”
Weinberg said it was important for Atack and Stephanie Richardson, who plays Lady Macbeth, to make the characters human and relatable.
“We really tried to focus on the humanity of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth,” Weinberg said. “They are often portrayed as cold. One of the things that makes them human is their bond to one another. It makes them human, but it makes their actions more terrifying.”
Atack said the language of Shakespeare helps him make Macbeth human, adding that the couple’s goals of obtaining power, money and importance are something that might strike a cord with audience members, as well.
“The language of Shakespeare helps you,” Atack said. “There is so much meaning in every line."
Atack, who hails from England and has a background in theater, said he enjoys performing Shakespeare. Weinberg said he picked the “Macbeth” cast carefully because in addition to performing Shakespeare’s sometimes-difficult dialogue, 12 out of the 14 actors perform multiple roles.
“About half the actors have gone through professional programs,” Weinberg said. “Some of the actors are from the community.”
Artistic director for Nevada Shakespeare Company and producer for “Macbeth,” Cameron Cain said the 12 actors have worked hard on performing multiple roles.
“Some people go from playing an apparition to a soldier in 20 seconds,” Cain said. “This cast is very strong.”
In addition to perfecting their delivery of Shakespearean verse, the actors were trained by world-renowned combat choreographer J.R. Beardsley.
“It’s always really fun to do stage combat,” Atack said. “J.R. Beardsley has worked all over the world – Japan, Scandinavia, Great Britain.”
Atack said learning the combat choreography lent itself to a new task for the actor: physically emoting while not saying a word to advance the tension and plot in the scene.
“It’s interesting to add a completely physical element to the story as well,” Atack said. “It’s a lot of fun to do, but you have to keep your wits about you. It’s something different for the audience, too.”
In addition to stage combat, Nevada Shakespeare Company’s performance of “Macbeth” is unique in that it gives the audience the gore that scares a lot of other acting troupes away from performing the play.
“There is blood in the play but there is not a lot of gruesome gore in the play, as well,” Atack said. “It is kind of tasteful.”
However, Atack said the play’s violence should not stop audience members from seeing “Macbeth.”
“There are elements of humor, too,” Atack added. “The fact that Macbeth completely loses his mind, we’ve had a few audience members laugh. It might be a nervous laugh, but they laugh.”
Witchcraft, blood and mystery all come together in “Macbeth,” which Cain said caused the company to postpone its performance until the fall season.
“We almost did this play last year but the timing wasn’t quite right,” Cain said. “We wanted to do it in the fall and time it with Halloween.”
Both Cain and Weinberg said the lighting and costume design are just as important as the acting in a traveling show. “Macbeth” has already been performed in Dayton, Winnemucca, Virginia City and in Reno.
Atack said he hopes people come out to see “Macbeth” even if Shakespeare intimidates them.
“I hope they’re entertained by it,” Atack said. “For those people who are skepital of Shakespeare, I hope they lose some of their skepticism. I hope they look at the character kind of differently, too.”
“Macbeth” will be performed at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at the Laxalt Auditorium located at 401 W. Second St. in Reno. The performance is free because of a grant from the city of Reno. To reserve seats, call 232-4974.
For more information on the Nevada Shakespeare Company, visit www.nevada-shakespeare.org.