Women in the Fray: Staging Macbeth

I’m in my third year at UBC, and in the intermediate year of the BFA Acting program – with one year left to go. Right now, we are gearing up to open Macbeth, a date that is fast approaching on March 22nd! I am playing Angus in Macbeth, a Scottish thane and warrior usually played by a man. I am really enjoying rehearsals so far, because this part lets me to explore a lot more roughness and power than a lot of traditional parts for women allow. But man, have these rehearsals been quick. We started rehearsing almost exactly a month before opening, hitting our halfway mark now.

Maybe the most exciting part of my role is the fight choreography, which is rare in a lot of female roles. Last Saturday we spent the entire 8-hour day working with fight choreography legend Nick Harrison. I feel so lucky to get to work with Nick, as he will quickly come up with fights that really enhance the relationship of the characters or the nature of the battle, physiologically explain what happens to the body getting stabbed or decapitated, and simultaneously create a fight that looks realistic and simply awesome.

Not only do I get to play a tough lady warrior, but I get a double-sided axe as well – you can see it in the photo here below, with some other weapons. My axe is lent to us by the Vancouver Opera, so I’m taking good care of it, but I won’t lie, its pretty heavy. I’m definitely building muscle mass working on this show! Not to give too much away, but early in the play I get to use that axe to kill an enemy solider – played by my roommate, Karina Palmitesta. We’re getting out a lot of that aggression over who does the dishes and who takes out the trash.

That aside, Macbeth is shaping up to be an incredible show. The fights look epic, I am seeing my cast make huge strides as actors and make the old text really move with new energy, and I get goosebumps every day from some chilling new moment in the show. I am so proud to be a part of this production and work with these fine actors, stage management, and our director Patrick New.

PS I tried on my costume for the first time this week, and not to spoil the surprise I’ll just give you a hint: Tartan. Leather. Fur. Back-combed hair. Dirt. And did I mention the axe?

~ Guest Blog Post by BFA Acting student Pippa Johnstone

* Note: The show has now opened and runs to March 31, 1012. If you’d like to check out the designer’s work, see more behind the scenes goodness, or even buy tickets – then check out the Macbeth show site here: http://www.theatre.ubc.ca/macbeth


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