Those who are familiar with William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” would least expect to find a cast of Catholic schoolgirls putting on the show in an eerie clearing in the woods. But Synchronicity Theatre’s “Mac Beth” begins with this very scene: Seven Catholic high school girls in uniforms gathered to put on their own interpretation of the famed Scottish play.
For the actors, this presents a complicated challenge: to portray a schoolgirl who is also portraying one of Shakespeare’s characters.
“Any time you watch Shakespeare, perform Shakespeare, read Shakespeare, there is no subtext,” Ash Anderson, one of the actors in the show, said. “They mean exactly what they say. What’s interesting about this Macbeth adaptation is that it’s all subtext. The entire time, you are a Catholic school girl portraying a character.”
Anderson identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns.
In this specific show, the schoolgirl that each person is portraying is called their “Becky.” Anderson simultaneously is playing their “Becky” and their character in the show, Banquo.
“Becky is definitely playing Banquo,” they said. “She’s having a ton of fun, and she’s just playing with her friends. And as certain triggers happen, she ends up aligning with Banquo. Her Becky and her Banquo are thinking about the same things. There’s this betrayal that happens to both Becky and Banquo, where their life experiences meet.”
Although the themes of Shakespeare’s original text are very serious, the girls appear to be feeling completely careless and lighthearted towards the play they are performing.
“It’s just teenage girls talking words that happen to be 400 years old,” Jennifer Alice Acker, the director of the show, said. “The playing style and the way that the words sound is completely different from any Shakespeare play I’ve ever heard. They find really delightful moments, like where Shakespeare maybe intended it one way, but these girls wouldn’t understand that, so they find a completely fresh new way to say it.”
However, as the play progresses, the girls’ attitudes gradually shift from having a fun time to feeling dark, violent emotions.
“The nature of cruelty can exist within social dynamics with younger people who are socialized to not act this way,” Abby Holland, the actress playing a variety of characters including Witch #3 and Malcolm, said. “The text lets us as girls express those things that we’re actually feeling. The fights get progressively more realistic and more painful. Those are feelings that these girls are not able to express in their real lives, and so they take it and express it through the lens of this play.”
The show develops an increasingly more serious tone, building up to a shockingly creepy ending, fitting for the spooky season of October.
“It’s all fun and games until it’s not,” Acker said. “It’s really an eerie show at the end of the day. We have all the fun tropes of Halloween, which are ghosts, murder, horror, but then we also have something that drops into real, actual horror genre by the end of the show, and that is thrilling. It will absolutely get people in the Halloween spirit.”