As a director, I am very interested in using theater as way to help our country creatively integrate unique cultural traditions—such as Shakespeare and Black culture. Just like a myth or folktale, there are infinite ways to perform a classic play—the art of theatre is not defined only by what you say, but as importantly, how you say it.
Blending history with imagination, Shakespeare loosely set his story of Macbeth in Scotland early in the first millennium during a particularly brutal period in British history filled with long and painful civil wars. Shakespeare wrote the play in part out of respect for King James who was Scottish and was said to have shared lineage with Banquo. In my production of Macbeth, I incorporate American history as a way to invite contemporary audiences to have a more visceral relationship to the world of the play.
The American Civil War of the nineteenth century is one of the most epic periods in American History. Over 600,000 Americans died in four years in a war to free over four million African slaves. The North won the war, but both sides were crippled from the battle and left haunted and divided. Without trying to create a literal historical documentary, my production is organized around the idea that Macbeth, a ferocious White Northern general, while completing his military campaign has recently fallen in love and married a southern belle. Lady Macbeth is a White southern woman whose family’s plantation was almost burnt down in a slave revolt. The witches are recently freed African slaves who remain impoverished on the Macbeth plantation yet still practice ancestral rhythms and rituals that allow them to commune with spirits and get a glimpse from the past, present, and future.
This performance was rehearsed and staged in the round in an empty space with no budget, minimal props and costumes.
Justin Emeka, Drama League Classical Directing Fellow
Final Directing Presentation at the Old Globe Rehearsal Studios, July 31, 2017 3-4:30 pm
Featuring a performance of Act I of Macbeth directed by Justin Emeka and performed with Old Globe MFA company. Followed by a short talk.