Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Folger Theatre Will Present a Rare Restoration MACBETH

Folger Theatre Will Present a Rare Restoration MACBETH

Rampant ambition and minds unhinged. Shrieking owls and prophesies foretold. Folger Theatre begins its 2018/19 season with Macbeth, Shakespeare's murderous tragedy seen anew and here, set in London's famous Bedlam asylum for a groundbreaking production integrating period music into a famous variation of the play. The Restoration-era adaptation by Sir William Davenant, which mesmerized audiences from the re-opening of London theaters in the 1660's until well into the 18th century, blends music performed by Folger Consort and the seminal tragedy of the Scottish king.

Directed by Robert Richmond (Antony and Cleopatra, Othello, Henry V), Macbeth has a limited run of only 24 performances from September 4 through 23, 2018. Tickets are available online at or by calling the Folger Box Office at (202) 544-7077.

This production of Macbeth is a culminating event in the international research project Performing Restoration Shakespeare, funded by a $250,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the United Kingdom and Queen's University Belfast. Bringing together scholars and performing artists from several institutions, the project explores how Restoration versions of Shakespeare might have originally been performed and how they can be performed for audiences today. Growing out of a 2014 workshop of the Folger Institute and led by scholar Richard Schoch of Queen's Belfast and Amanda Eubanks Winkler of Syracuse University, the project has taken place over the last three years at Shakespeare's Globe in London and with the Folger Shakespeare Library.

"With Folger Theatre and our early music ensemble Folger Consort working in collaboration, along with a prestigious group of scholars, we are excited to present a theatrical rendering of the famous Scottish play that you can see only at the Folger," Janet Alexander Griffin, Folger Theatre's Artistic Producer, says. "We have assembled an outstanding cast and world-class musicians to bring this unique Restoration-era adaptation to D.C., and we are pleased to bring back Robert Richmond, who brings his own vision and style to classic plays."

Davenant, a colorful English poet and playwright, who had a long literary career through the English Civil War and into the Restoration, claimed association with Shakespeare as his godson. Along with his adaptations of Hamlet, The Tempest, and Henry VIII, his version of Macbeth was a tremendous success on the Restoration stage, with the famous diarist Samuel Pepys calling its unusual combination of tragic intensity, music, and dancing a "strange perfection." It amends the traditional Shakespeare text in a moderate number of ways, sharpens its political edge, includes a congenial meeting between Lady Macduff and Lady Macbeth, and integrates rich baroque music for witches and chorus. Macbeth features original period music by John Eccles, Matthew Locke, Henry Purcell, as well as traditional Scottish tunes.

"The international team of scholars collaborating with us throughout the production process offers a unique and historic opportunity for the Folger Shakespeare Library, Folger Theatre, and Folger Consort to come together on a scale that has never been done before," says Robert Richmond. "I, along with our extraordinary creative team, have been working to uncover the dynamics of the unique structure of
the original Restoration performance and to make the play as exciting for a modern American audience as it was for Londoners in the 1660's."

The cast is led by Helen Hayes Award-winners Ian Merrill Peakes and Kate Eastwood Norris as the tragically ambitious Macbeths. Alongside Peakes and Norris are Louis Butelli as the esteemed King Duncan, Chris Genebach as the honorable Macduff, Andhy Mendez as Macbeth's loyal companion Banquo, and Karen Peakes as Lady Macduff. The company also features John Floyd (Donalbain), Jeff Keogh (Seyton), Owen Peakes (Fleance), Rafael Sebastian (Malcolm), and Jaysen Wright (Lenox). The singing witches will be played by Rachael Montgomery, Emily Noël, and Ethan Watermeier.

Robert Richmond will be reunited with the creative team who helped to craft the innovative worlds for Antony and Cleopatra, Timon of Athens, and Richard III, among others, including four-time Helen Hayes Award winner Tony Cisek (scenic design), Mariah Anzaldo Hale (costume design), and Andrew F. Griffin (lighting design), with sound design by Matt Otto and Fight Direction by Cliff Williams III.

Led by Music Director Robert Eisenstein (co-Artistic Director of Folger Consort), period instrument musicians are Risa Browder (violin), Nina Falk (viola), Daniel Meyers (winds, plucked strings, and percussion), John Moran (cello), Leslie Nero (violin), and Webb Wiggins (harpsichord), who join the acclaimed vocalists in the ensemble.

Related Articles View More Washington, DC Stories

More Hot Stories For You