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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: February ::
Re: Witches
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0320  Friday, 26 February 1999.

[1]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Feb 1999 10:12:10 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0317 Witches

[2]     From:   Ed Pixley <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Feb 1999 12:36:04 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0317 Witches

[3]     From:   Charles Costello <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Feb 1999 11:45:12 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0317 Witches

[4]     From:   Mary Jane Chaffee <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Feb 1999 12:13:57 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0317 Witches and q re video's on the net

[5]     From:   Jerry Bangham <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Feb 1999 11:34:33 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 10.0317 Witches

[6]     From:   Catherine Loomis <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Feb 1999 14:09:17 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0317 Witches

[7]     From:   Bill Allard <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Feb 1999 15:49:13 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0317 Witches

[8]     From:   Eric W Beato <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Feb 1999 22:20:09 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 10.0317 Witches

[9]     From:   Julie Wrigley <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Feb 1999 17:35:02 +1100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0317 Witches


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Feb 1999 10:12:10 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 10.0317 Witches
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0317 Witches

>I'm a high school English teacher currently teaching Macbeth to
>seniors.  We've seen some video of versions of the early scenes of Act 1
>(the Nicole Williamson version, the Ian McKellen version, and the
>Polanski film).  However, I've never seen a stage production of the
>play, and I'm wondering if people who have would be willing to pass
>along interesting stagings of the witches.

I've seen two stagings of Macbeth, both in Louisiana. Around 1991,
director Barry Kyle presented the witches as something like "trailer
park trash." Think of the typical guests of the Jerry Springer show.
This was an early performance, I believe, of the Swine Palace Theater
Kyle is forming and leading in Baton Rouge. In 1991, David Duke was
running for governor, and I think any reference this had Duke's voter
base was purely intentional. I recall as well that the witches used big
oil drums for their cauldrons. There were hints of beards.

In 1997, the Tulane Shakespeare Festival presented the witches as
"high-class" hookers. They were costumed in low-cut cocktail dresses
showing much of their thighs as well. They drank cocktails, and as I
recall, they were themselves observers of much of the action (even when
they don't appear in the text), sitting to the side on bar stools.

Both performances emphasized their appeal to Macbeth's and Banquo's
lust.  I preferred the Tulane staging of the play both found both
performances effective.

Jack Heller

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Pixley <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Feb 1999 12:36:04 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 10.0317 Witches
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0317 Witches

Several years ago, for our college centennial, we built a replica of an
Elizabethan playhouse in our Blackbox Theater in which we performed a
repertory of Elizabethan plays.  I directed the Macbeth production.  The
conventions of this playhouse, with simulated daylight, prescribed no
electronic effects.  We could use mechanical wind and thunder machines,
but no lighting effects.  The witches' motivation was that, as damned
souls, they could relieve some of their own suffering by bringing the
souls of others to damnation.

Their costumes were vegetation colored rags, and in the first contact
with Macbeth and Macduff, we established the convention that by simply
freezing, they would appear as part of the surrounding landscape.  This
was all choreographed, of course. Once they had so disappeared, they
could move freely, without being seen by the humans.  In their Act IV
meeting with Macbeth (the "bubble, bubble, toil and trouble" scene),
they also don't see him, but only sense his approaching (something
wicked this way comes).

Then by pulling back an invisible curtain, they suddenly see him on top
of them, at which point they react with horror at something that appears
to them more evil even than they.  We also employed huge puppets,
appearing on the wall behind our inner-above and operated from below,
for the apparitions.

A version done by the Judith Shakespeare Company opened with the witches
on the battlefield, cutting the strings of life attached to the dying
soldiers.

Ed Pixley
SUNY-Oneonta

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Costello <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Feb 1999 11:45:12 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 10.0317 Witches
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0317 Witches

Robert Lepage directed the play at The University of Toronto a few years
ago. The witches-played by men-appeared from above, upside down, hanging
by their knees from a hidden bar.  They slowly unfolded themselves
downwards and into view, and delivered their lines that way, seemingly
suspended upside down in mid-air.  Very effective.  Downright eerie.

Chuck Costello
Graduate Centre for Study of Drama
The University of Toronto

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Jane Chaffee <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Feb 1999 12:13:57 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 10.0317 Witches and q re video's on the net
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0317 Witches and q re video's on the net

I saw an unsuccessful travelling stage version in the late 80's-RSC?  or
from London?  -- that set
Macbeth in turn-of-the-century England with cricket bats and the like,
yet had the witches as contemporary bag-ladies-rags, high-top sneakers,
etc-very NYC meets Lord Peter Whimsey-but it was a valient and creative
attempt witches not magical or spooky but certainly urbanized and odd,
therefore successfully weird perhaps others saw this staging and can
flesh out further details

Is there a current good source for video's on the internet -- sounds
like you have some great resources!!

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jerry Bangham <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Feb 1999 11:34:33 -0600
Subject: 10.0317 Witches
Comment:        RE: SHK 10.0317 Witches

This isn't exactly an answer to what you asked, but years ago I used to
show classes an Encyclopedia Britannica film on Macbeth. In it, Douglas
Campbell discussed various choices a director could make in staging the
play. One of the aspects discussed was how to treat the witches.

I don't know if this series is still available, but it was aimed at high
school students and went over well with college undergraduates.

Jerry Bangham    http:/www.win.net/~kudzu/

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Catherine Loomis <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Feb 1999 14:09:17 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 10.0317 Witches
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0317 Witches

Two good ones were a recent RSC production in which the witches looked
like Victorian nannies, although a tiny shift of their heads and the
lights revealed wispy beards, and an English Shakespeare Company
production from the early 90's in which the witches were bag ladies
picking through the corpses on the battlefield.  The production began
with that disconcerting urban sound-grocery carts full of bottles.  The
witches wheeled theirs in, took the shoes off the dead rebels, and
eventually met up and began talking.


[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Allard <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Feb 1999 15:49:13 -0700
Subject: 10.0317 Witches
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0317 Witches

A few months ago I saw a "Macbeth" where the witches were displayed
effectively and simply. The witches were white, flowing, gossamer-like
sheets, about 4'x8', possibly larger. They had paper mache heads with
contorted faces, very ominous looking. The heads were connected to a
horizontal PVC tube running between the vertical tubes (think of the
head tube as the clavicle(?)). They had billowy sleeves as "arms" and
each arm was connected to a PVC tube. Each tube (2 total) was operated
by a spandex clad dancer/actor, who would operate the pole in concert
with the other witches and their handlers. The handlers were also
ominous in their movements and costumes, which had a spider web design
on them. Dubbed over this were cackling witches' voices, spoken off
stage and through a loudspeaker. Hope this helps.

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Eric W Beato <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Feb 1999 22:20:09 -0500
Subject: Witches
Comment:        SHK 10.0317 Witches

Two powerful experiments on the witches were staged in the Chicago area
in
recent memory (relatively recent, I suppose).

During the 70s, the College of Dupage staged a version with 6 witches in
two trios.  One trio was somber, strong, and imperious; the other was
ragged and tattered.  The trio in tatters-appearing to be more modern,
less-powerful women who may have been 'witchlike' more in their own
minds than in reality-would speak the lines in pained, strained voices.
The trio in black-powerful, all-seeing, arm-folded goddesses of
witchcraft -- would recite the same lines in monotone.  At first it was
a bit off-putting; later it became interesting as the tattered witches
appeared to alter the cadence of the lines in an attempt to trick the
power trio/ They never managed to do so, of course.

In the rearly 90s, Roosevelt University staged the opening of the play
on the battlefield.  As the house opened, three bandaged figures
appeared to be war victims-wrapped head to toe in 'Ace' bandages.  As
the lights went down, the victims stirred in great pain and began the
play.  Naturally, many staged versions in the intervening years used
more-or-less traditional stagings of the witches, but these two
experiments (both at the collegiate level) stand out strongest in my
mind.

[9]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Julie Wrigley <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Feb 1999 17:35:02 +1100
Subject: 10.0317 Witches
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0317 Witches

We performed the play of Macbeth for an audience of students and
parents.  We staged the witches in layers of dirty white rags - like
travesties of brides, or virgins gone wrong (i.e. disturbingly
unnatural).  Our performance was outside, with a lot of direct speaking
to the audience.  It was very powerful, and lots of fun.

Julie Wrigley, Australia.
 

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