The Making of Macbeth

The Upper School’s recent performance of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” evolved from a few actors on stage to a full-fledged theatrical production, with the help of a small army of volunteers.

The real magic of a theatrical performance, one might argue, doesn’t happen on stage. It happens behind the scenes—when volunteers are painting and building the set, actors are memorizing lines, and technicians are designing the lighting. The finished product is a culmination of Herculean efforts from all walks of the University School of Milwaukee community.

The first performance of “Macbeth” was held on Oct. 24, 2019, but planning had been underway months in advance. Mark Edwards, Upper School drama teacher and the show’s director, held auditions in May and selected his cast before the end of last school year. Over the course of the summer, Edwards exchanged set design ideas with Joshua Miller, theatre technical director, who was hired in July. Upper School Administrative Assistant Mark Conner, who also serves as USM’s costume maker, began his research in the summer and completed the bulk of his sewing by mid-September, in time for cast fittings.

The actors started rehearsing on the first day of school (Aug. 27), but the work wasn’t over when rehearsals ended. “I’d spend several hours every night working on my lines,” said Connor Findlay ’22, who played Macbeth. “I’d walk around in my room or actually walk outside at like, 1 a.m. just to get it in my brain.” Added Margaret Rankin ’21, who played Lady Macbeth, “Shakespeare is difficult to memorize, and you also have to understand what you’re saying and add meaning to it.”

When the show is over and the final curtain has fallen, the students must feel some relief, right? “Actually, I’ll feel sad when it’s over,” said Findlay. “Me too,” added Rankin. “We have so much fun. The sense of community and the bond you feel with your cast, I don’t get that anywhere else.”

9/3/2019

Rehearsals were held every day, and Mark Edwards (far left) worked closely with students to understand the words and their meanings. Actors also worked to identify their character’s personalities, back stories, motivations, and flaws.

9/5/2019

Mark Conner sewed the costumes at home on nights and weekends, starting in late August. Making costumes is more time-consuming than renting them, but it adds creativity and builds a collection of costumes for future shows.

9/17/2019

Joshua Miller, theatre technical director, sketched out a set design for Charlie Reinders ’22 (center) and Alex Horton ’23 to construct. The set was intentionally dark, with earth tones meant to invoke feelings of insecurity, greed, and death.

9/18/2019

Once the costumes were near completion, Conner held fittings with each cast member. Here, he worked with Madeleine Megal ’21 (Macduff). “I like the costume analysis part of it,” said Conner. “The way you can use color and materials to connect two characters together.”

10/10/2019

Members of the production staff (from left) Philip Shuler ’15, scenic painter; Joshua Miller, technical director; Shane O’Neil, lighting designer; and Mark Edwards, director, held a meeting on set.

10/22/2019

Lighting designer O’Neil (center) created the lighting for the show, which was a key set component. O’Neil programed the lighting board and trained Jacques Blashka ’22 (left), who served as the board operator for all three performances
Asher Bosworth ’22 was the show’s sound technician. Here, he practiced cueing up music, sound effects, and adjusting the audio levels during rehearsal.

10/23/2019

From left Edwards helped actors Connor Findlay ’22 (Macbeth) and Alyssa Howe ’23 (Young Siward) perfect their sword-fight choreography
Neil Dogra ’21 (Sergeant) got a trial run with his stage makeup.

10/25/2019

Months of planning, rehearsals, and line memorization boiled down to three final performances. Here, Macbeth (Connor Findlay ’22) grappled with the implications of killing Duncan, while Lady Macbeth (Margaret Rankin ’21) passionately persuaded him.

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