Home » Sections » Arts » Senior adapts and modernizes ‘Macbeth’ for thesis

Senior adapts and modernizes ‘Macbeth’ for thesis

By Alana Hodson

Section: Arts

September 4, 2015

What comes to mind when you think of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”? The heated battle between countries? The deadly greed that accompanies kingship and power? Frightful hallucinations of a slaughtered companion? Or even the uncanny ability to foresee one’s fate? While all of these are iconic aspects of the play, there is much more to this production than meets the eye—much more to be learned about the very essence of human nature. In her Theater Arts senior thesis, director Zoë Golub-Sass ’16 hopes to reveal the humanistic emotions, familial bonds, and psychological struggles in Shakespeare’s characters, particularly those of the Macbeths, whom many thespians consider Shakespeare’s most perfect couple.

Auditions for “Macbeth,” through the Brandeis Theater Company, were held this past week, and, despite the proximity to the start of the semester, Golub-Sass reports that there was a fantastic turnout and that over half of all the auditions were first-years. Even before the cast list was set, the production had already begun to take life as the actors alike prepared for their auditions. Golub-Sass is excited to be able work with new people, as well as previous colleagues, and believes that there will be a great group for the production, incorporating a “mix of upperclassmen, lowerclassmen, experienced and inexperienced.”

Golub-Sass is a Theater Arts and English double major, and has been directing, acting and teaching Shakespeare since age 10, when she attended a Shakespearean summer camp. Her passion has since driven her greatest projects here at Brandeis, such as “R&J: How I Love Thy Company,” where she worked as the director of the show.

For this upcoming production, Golub-Sass dedicated the majority of the past year to adapting the play from the original 16th-century folio and researching various versions and footnotes in order to trace the development of the characters’ relationships to get as close as possible to Shakespeare’s original intentions for the play. She also labored over transcribing the play into a contemporary, kitchen-sink-drama type setting, where the audience would be able to understand the Macbeths in a different light—a family unit facing the emotional and psychological strain of childlessness and broken dreams.

“It’s accessible in a lot of ways: the language … the story … It’s really about introspective people; how things can get out of hand. It’s an interesting story, and to look at it with a modern lens, it brings up a ton of stuff that we don’t talk about and that there isn’t a lot of theater about today,” Golub-Sass said about why she selected “Macbeth.”

Now that the script has been finalized, Golub-Sass is shifting her focus to a new set of exciting challenges, the most perplexing of which is devising a way to incorporate the three witches into a contemporary setting. As we observe the home life of the Macbeths, “we’re also guests,” describes Golub-Sass, and she states that “childlessness, and trying to understand that will be a huge challenge for me … trying to understand what that can do to a person, the way it affects you.” Another mission currently underway is having the actors understand and try to humanize the Macbeths and their behavior. “There’s this idea of playing the mood of the play versus playing the play. I really want to play the play,” she explained. Golub-Sass hopes that her actors will be inspired to research the emotional intensity of Shakespeare’s writing

This year’s production of Macbeth will contain many exciting installments in regard to both the costume and set design and the director’s adaptation. Among the production’s technical staff, there are two senior students in charge of set design and costume as well as two professional sound and lighting designers from Boston. Golub-Sass is thrilled to see how the set will turn out, especially how Shakespeare’s open-theater venue will be balanced with the adapted, indoor kitchen setting. “We’re working on maybe having a functional sink. It would be really exciting to have running water on stage,” she said.

Like the calm before the storm, the action seems to have receded in the wake of auditions, but the actors and staff are now working hard to prepare for rehearsals which are set to begin in the second week of October. When asked what kind of mindset the audience should have when viewing this production, Golub-Sass responded, “Just being open to … a less political, more domestic production; being open to looking at it in a different way and coming to the theater knowing that you’re going to see ‘Macbeth,’ but it might not be the movie you watched in high school or the book you read.” “Macbeth” will hit the Brandeis stage on Dec. 4-6.

Menu Title