‘Macbeth: The Radio Drama’

By Makenzie Holland (makenzie.holland@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: May. 14 | Modified: May. 18
‘Macbeth: The Radio Drama’

From left, performers Chandler Walpole and Sarah Mize create the sound of horse shoes by using coconut shells, as part of Ensemble Stage’s staged radio drama production of ‘Macbeth.’
Photos by Makenzie Holland

As a continuation of the past couple’ months celebration of one of the most renowned literary figures of our time, cabbages will roll and barbecue tongs will clang, as Macbeth fights for ruthless ambition onstage yet again and his story is told “full of sound and fury”through eight microphones.

Ensemble Stage’s production “Macbeth: A Radio Drama,” takes on a new perspective Saturday, May 17, at 7 p.m. at the Blowing Rock School Auditorium, as eight microphones, projections and a variety of sound effects shape a new world from William Shakespeare’s timeless classic.

Artistic director Gary Smith takes creative license to its full potential, as the play will be presented as a live stage radio drama set to imitate how audiences received entertainment in the 1930s and ’40s.
“It’s a neat way to go about doing it, especially with Shakespeare, because the words have such a rhythm and are so elegant,” Smith said.

Ensemble Stage will be presenting “Macbeth” as part of the High Country Theatre League’s celebration of Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. Shakespeare’s actual birthday is recorded as being sometime around April 23, 1564.

Bubbling cauldrons, witches’ incantations, head slicing and battle scenes will be captured with sound effects created by various items instead of typical sword-wielding action scenes, characters will be presented and imagined through powerful voices instead of actual presence, and projections will be used to set the scene behind the cast over the use of actual props.

“It’s a whole different kind of process with directing a radio play,” Smith said.

Three of the eight microphones onstage will be used for sound effects, while remaining microphones are for the actors and actresses themselves, who are left with the task of bringing their characters to life through voice.

“The emotions and the movement and the attitude really need to be conveyed within their voice,” Smith said. “It actually is, in a way, a bit more powerful because sometimes you rely on your actions and your movements to convey an emotion, whereas with this it’s really through the voice.”

“Macbeth,” written around 1606, is the only Shakespearean drama to be produced by a theater group in the celebration this year. “Part of what we like to do is not do the norm,” Smith said.
Selecting “Macbeth” gave Smith lots to work with in regards to sound effects and keeps the production to a short length of around one hour and five minutes.

“It’s kind of neat when you realize that something that is not at all what the sound is representing makes a great sound for that,” Smith said. “Obviously, we can’t have a real head rolling across the floor, but a cabbage does a heck of a great job at it. Barbecue tongs for the sword fights are great, sounds like two swords clashing, but the fact that its barbecue tongs being used is what keeps people amused.”

Mark Allen Woodard, playing the role of Macbeth, said the biggest difference in a radio drama versus a typical play is “being aware of activating the language.” Audiences see a lot less action on stage through radio dramas and experience more with their ears than their eyes.

“It’s a different experience from the typical theater experience, but it can be every bit as rewarding,” Woodard said.

Tickets for the radio drama can be purchased in advance at http://www.ensemblestage.com, by phone at (828) 414-1844 or on the day of the performance, and cost $12 for adults and $8 for kids 16 and younger.

Additional Images

From left, performers Chandler Walpole and Sarah Mize create the sound of horse shoes by using coconut shells, as part of Ensemble Stage’s staged radio drama production of ‘Macbeth.’
Photos by Makenzie Holland

Derek Gagnier, playing the role of Macduff, waits his turn to speak, while the sound effects take center stage.

To create the sound of a cauldron bubbling, Aaron Scotch makes bubbling cauldron noises with a glass of liquid.

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