This Saturday and Sunday, the UCSB Department of Theater and Dance, in collaboration with the Naked Shakes theatrical movement, will present three performances on campus of Macbeth by William Shakespeare.
The production is directed by professor Irwin Appel, and stars professors Jeff Mills (Macbeth) and Michael Morgan (Duncan) and 16 UCSB acting students.
The philosophy of the Naked Shakes — ”Shakes” short for “Shakespeare” — movement, according to the UCSB drama website, is as follows: “Naked Shakes believes in the transformation of the actor and the space, along with the imaginative ability of the audience. Each play is presented clearly and directly so that the audience inhabits the imaginative world of the play through Shakespeare’s language. The barren physical theater space is very important to the Naked Shakes concept; it takes on the identity of whatever locale or particular piece of poetic language is described, and yet always reminds the audience they are in a theater. When Prospero in The Tempest describes 'the great Globe itself,' he is not only referring to the entire Earth, but also the 'Globe' Theater — Shakespeare’s theater. That duality is what Naked Shakes is all about.”
If one has to choose, it’s better to strip Shakespeare, visually, of any temporal or social context, rather than to obsessively reconstruct the historical context in the manner of Artificial Realism, or to “update” him to — as Jonathan Miller said, “hijack Shakespeare and fly him to some position in the 20th century and make him speak to it.” This, of course, puts all the responsibility on the actor, who needs a great deal of self-confidence and control.
The great and dangerous temptation here is that, made nervous by the bare, neutral spaces, the actor will try to fill the void with mugging, fidgeting, and all sorts of irrelevant body English. The best protection against this sort of over-acting is to do no acting at all. As Katharine Hepburn told Anthony Hopkins when they were filming The Lion in Winter (Hopkins’ first movie role), “Just say your lines — don’t try to act.”
Macbeth is Shakespeare’s shortest play, an intense drama of ambition pushed to the point of psychosis and beyond. It is not an allegory about the dangers of totalitarian rule. Macbeth is not a fascist, but a man whose conscience, stifle it how he will, ultimately overwhelms his ambition, his quest for power. His “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” soliloquy is the clearest statement of bitter disillusionment ever penned.
Macbeth plays at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Hatlen Theater on the UCSB campus. Tickets are $17 for general admission, and $13 for students, seniors and UCSB faculty, staff and alumni, and can be purchased by calling 805.893.7221 or 805.893.3022, and online by clicking here.