‘So Fair And Foul A Day…’

‘So Fair And Foul A Day…’

Director finds humanity in Macbeth and his lady


Steven Marzolf, director of the University of Arkansas Theatre’s production of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” understands that people sometimes avoid the heightened language and complicated plots of Shakespeare. After all, he was once one of those people.

“My first exposure to Shakespeare was in high school,” Marzolf says. “My English teacher was sweet, but she didn’t know what she was doing. We had the old BBC records of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Julius Caesar,’ and it was brutal. I didn’t have a connection to it. I felt like it was above me, that I was dumb for not understanding it. This lofty poetry and elevated language was intimidating.”

So it was somewhat ironic when, after he moved to Chicago to pursue a career in theater, Marzolf was cast in a show at the venerable Chicago Shakespeare Theatre within his first three months in town.

“I started working with really experienced actors, and I understood exactly what they were saying, because they understood the language,” he remembers. “Most people are afraid of it because the person teaching it to them doesn’t understand the language, and that’s intimidating and keeps you at arm’s length. My goal with this play is to make it accessible to students and audiences in general.”

Marzolf says it’s been about four years since the UA has produced a Shakespeare play. Though he was slightly hesitant about suggesting “Macbeth” — the show is generally considered one of Shakespeare’s heaviest — he wanted to do something with, as he says, a little more “oomph” than one of Shakespeare’s comedies.

“Years ago, I read something by a guy named Harold C. Goddard — he was a Shakespeare historian who wrote a two-volume book called ‘The Meaning of Shakespeare’,” says Marzolf. “What he said about this play made a lot of sense and made me want to direct it. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘What person hasn’t walked up to the edge of the cliff looking out to the abyss in any aspect of their life — professional, personal — and had to make the choice to either jump or take a step back?’ When I read that, I thought, ‘This play makes sense to me.’ So much of life is about trying to find the light. Darkness and evil are the flip side of the coin, and I think it’s important to find both sides to understand humanity.”

With multiple murderous plots to untangle, “Macbeth” has plenty of darkness and evil to offer. Part of the challenge of directing the show, says Marzolf, is finding a way to humanize the two main characters’ homicidal tendencies.

“It’s crucial that the audience feel something for [Macbeth] and Lady Macbeth. There has to be empathy.”

Marzolf is handling this challenge in several different ways. The first is adding an “inciting incident” as a prelude to the original play, which Marzolf created by interpreting some of the language used by Lady Macbeth.

Another way to ensure audience buy in? Casting strong actors.

“[Graduate student] Scott Russell has done a lot of Shakespeare, and I felt confident that he could do that role,” says Marzolf of his Macbeth. “I knew that he would have the gravitas for it and also the understanding of the language and, emotionally, what that character goes through. He’s also someone who can command the room.”

Graduate student Na’Tosha De’Von plays the scheming Lady Macbeth.

“She has an incredible, dynamic personality on stage,” notes Marzolf. “I knew she had this in her, but in her audition, what was really delightful was the amount of power she has, and this character is laced with it. But, also, with the [prelude] concept I came up with, [Lady Macbeth] also has to have a vulnerability. To see this very powerful woman that is dealing with this horrible loss and has the emotional capacity to go on that journey [from] strong to fragile a couple of times — you don’t usually think of that with Lady Macbeth. You usually think, ‘power, power, power,’ but it’s nice to have those different levels.”




WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1-2, 6-9 & 2 p.m. Feb. 3 & 10

WHERE — UA Black Box Theater, 2 E. Center St. in Fayetteville

COST — $5-$20

INFO — 575-4752



University Theatre:

The Rest Of The Season

“Topdog/Underdog” — Haunted by their past, two brothers are forced to confront their future and a lifetime of sibling rivalry, 7:30 p.m. March 1-2, 6-9; 2 p.m. March 3 and 10, UA Black Box Theater on the Fayetteville square. $5-$20.

“A Little Night Music” — Stephen Sondheim’s musical masterpiece about one hilarious night and a very tangled web of love affairs, 7:30 p.m. April 5-7, 10-13 & 2 p.m. April 7 and 14, University Theatre in the Fine Arts Building on campus, $5-$20.

Categories: Theater