BWW Review: MACBETH at Iowa Stage: The Joy of Seeing Shakespeare Performed Outside
Having Shakespeare done outside is something that is not new to Des Moines and the surrounding area. These productions have been thrilling for both the audience and people involved in the show. Getting to participate in a few outdoor Shakespeare productions was one of my favorite memories of college. I've also enjoyed getting the opportunity to watch a few as well. This idea formed a partnership with the Repertory Theatre of Iowa, now Iowa Stage, and The Salisbury House to do a show each summer on the grounds of the Salisbury House. I was excited last year when I heard that their partnership was going to stage an outdoor production of William Shakespeare's darkest tragedy's Macbeth.
Shakespeare's "Macbeth," tells a story of how power can corrupt people. The story starts as Duncan, the King of Scotland, finds out that his Macbeth and Banquo have defeated their traitorous neighbors Ireland and Norway. On their return, Macbeth and Banquo are visited by three witches who tell them prophecies about their future about Macbeth taking the throne and Banquo's descendants taking the throne. When Macbeth returns and finds out that Duncan is going to announce his son as heir to the throne, Macbeth murders him in the night as he was sleeping. Once Macbeth takes the throne, he is haunted by the prophecy that Banquo's descendants will take power. When Banquo decides to leave the kingdom by night, Macbeth has him killed. As the play continues, you wonder if anyone will be able to put a stop to Macbeth's murderous reign.
One of the difficulties of doing shows outside is that you aren't able to have major set changes as you go place to place. Thanks to Brad Dell's direction, you don't find yourself ever missing having the changing scenery. The way he uses the Salisbury House in his blocking is something that all aspiring directors should see. From using the upper level to be Macbeth's Chamber to a corner of the stages for the witches gathering place, each scene is skillfully staged in a way that fills in the blanks of the location for the audience.
Another difficulty about doing shows outside is the ambient noise that surrounds the grounds the show is being put on. This task was expertly taken on by Josh Jepson. He tackles this issue in two different ways. The first is by having all the actors wear mics. While the actors on stage could perform the show without mics and be heard by the audience, it gave them a little more amplification to help with the surrounding noise. Another creative way he does this is by the choice of music/sound clips that as we transition from scene to scene. This is done two different ways. The first being drum music that helps set the tone for the show as we transition in and out of scenes with the three witches. As Macbeth starts his murderous conquest the sound switches to what sounded like a looming storm.
One of the joys of watching Shakespeare is that it brings out the best in actors. "Macbeth" showcases some of the best acting talent that Des Moines has to offer. This is evident in how each character is developed. This was evident in the humor at times brought to the show through the witches played by Jennifer Hughes, Kelly Shaefer, Nate Jorgensen, and Hannah Stenbeck. We see it again in Alissa Tschetter-Siedslaw's Lady Macbeth as she descends to madness for the murders. It is also evident in Tom Geraty portrayal of Macbeth. He was an absolute delight to watch and listen to. I appreciated he took care to deliver each word of dialogue with the weight of what was currently going on in the show. His delivery also let the audience see through the eyes of the character. This was best shown during the dinner scene where he is seeing Banquo's ghost. He could have peered off into the distance with no one there and the audience would have known exactly what he was seeing.
As performances for "Macbeth" continue through the weekend, I would encourage you to take a trip to the Salisbury house and enjoy a few hours the beauty of Salisbury house, as well as an amazing production. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for students, and $10 for children ages 6-12. To find out more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://salisburyhouse.org/