Chesapeake High students won't cry 'Hold, enough' Staging 'Macbeth' cures phobia of Shakespeare

March 09, 1997|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

After two months of planning for a production of "Macbeth," some Chesapeake High School students' tastes have changed from Beavis and Butthead to Shakespeare.

The students have gotten past the intricacies of Elizabethan English, surely a foreign language to many, and burrowed deep into the culture of the play.

"It's really fun and cool and bloody," said Tim Grieb, 15, a sophomore who plays Macduff. "And it's a chance to sword-fight."

But they have learned more than violence and gore. They have gotten a Freudian psychoanalysis of the characters and symbols in the play from psychology students, details on Scottish castles and a political history of the era from English students, and a taste of Scottish and English dishes from home economics students.

Nearly half the school's 1,700 students participated in projects related to the play in an approach that may become a prototype for the state for a program with the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, which sent actor Stanton Davis to direct Chesapeake's play.

"I've never experienced anything like this," said Beth Ream, the acting arts teacher whose 30 students make up the cast and part of the crew. "A lot of people have come together and supported us."

Now, students who never seemed interested in the arts want to see the play, Ream said, and others who thought they would never understand Shakespeare are digging his irony and fluid prose.

"Right now, I'm falling in love with it," said freshman Josh Francovitch, who plays young Macduff and young Siward. "You can do [the play] so many different ways and it's still the same story."

Macbeth is the tale of an 11th-century Scottish warrior who, believing he is invincible because of the prophecy of three witches, kills his king and assumes the throne. He is undone by a fellow warrior who discovers his schemes, flees to England and encourages the king's son to return home and seek revenge.

Chesapeake students have created a post-apocalyptic, "Mad Max"-meets-"Terminator" set for the story of guilt, betrayal and corruption.

Art students decorated the macabre set with papier-mache skulls that have wires and small electronic parts sticking out of the eye sockets, severed hands, battle axes, hub caps and dismantled computer monitors. Rising from the back of the stage is a ghostly form with its arms spread wide, draped in a dark gray, tie-dyed gown.

In performances Friday morning for their classmates and Friday night for the public, student actors stormed about the stage dressed in black jeans and combat boots, army jackets with medals, and wooden swords hanging at their sides.

They handled the complicated lines with aplomb.

Their intensity and proficiency came in part from Davis, a professional who directed the play, coordinated lighting and music, and taught students exercises to help them focus on their parts and project their voices.

But the students paid a high price for the play, Davis said.

"They've come on their lunch time, after school, on weekends -- they even came on Presidents Day," Davis said.

Some, such as 16-year-old Andi Jones, have taken time off work.

Grieb won't play baseball this season because he missed tryouts to make play practice.

But the students say it was worth it.

"It's hard work, but it's definitely rewarding," said Tara Baldwin, 17, a stage crew member. "I've seen so much dedication that I've never seen in any other class."

Pub Date: 3/09/97

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