Q&A: Lovers and Madmen’s ‘Macbeth’ director Amalie Vega

Annie Bruce, Reporter

Lovers & Madmen  is no stranger to the works of William Shakespeare, but the group’s newest production challenges the typical interpretation of “Macbeth.” Director Amalie Vega, a Communication junior, spoke with The Current about the challenges of adapting a Shakespeare classic and the decision to cast a female Macbeth.

The Current: How did you get involved as director for this production of “Macbeth?”

Amalie Vega: Directing … is similar to getting a board position where they have a round of petitions to get producers for all the spots that we have … I petitioned to be the director of the fall Shanley (production) and I didn’t know what show I was going to do yet. After I got the spot, Claire Kennedy, the producer, and I … talked about different shows that we were thinking of and wrote out pitches for each one, and “Macbeth” happened to be our top choice. So I talked about how for “Macbeth” I wanted it to be a really small cast and really short and fast and raw and dirty, and that’s the one they chose.

The Current: Can you tell us about this specific interpretation of “Macbeth?”

Vega: The big thing that’s getting it attention is that a woman is playing Macbeth which sort of happened upon me. I didn’t go into this necessarily being like, “and in this production Macbeth will be female and that will be the thing.” But it turned into this really important part of the show. And Meghan (Stanton) got cast, because she has this talent and it happened that the talent for this role came from her instead of from a male actor. I wanted to have an artist who I trusted with the role over necessarily the correct gender. Then, I was going back and forth all summer about how that was going to work — whether it was Meghan herself who was just going to be playing a boy, or if we were suddenly going to have Macbeth be female and how that would work … But what it’s turned into is actually Macbeth is … basically transgender, where she has a female body, but feels male and has been masquerading as a man for her whole life. And only Lady Macbeth knows that that’s true, which makes that relationship have a huge amount more trust and love. Less sex, which has been something that we’ve been sort of grappling with, because that relationship is always interpreted as being so fueled by that.

The Current: What’s the hardest part about directing Shakespeare? 

Vega: A lot, a lot of it. Hard parts come from the words being so famous. You have the dagger speech in “Macbeth” … There’s such a way that that needs to be performed. (There’s) all this doubt and this confusion … I was really trying to go against things like that, because I think as soon as you start doing something that people are expecting with the most famous speeches, you’ve lost them, because all the audience is seeing is every other famous person who’s ever done that speech. The sheer knowledge of those words is really, really hard. And then you get scenes that aren’t famous and they aren’t famous for a reason. It’s because they’re terrible. They’re actually just bad, slowly written scenes and you go “Shakespeare, why did you do this?” And you’re trying to cut it, but you can’t … It’s the two ends of the Shakespeare language spectrum: it being too boring and it being too famous.

The Current: What’s your favorite part about directing in general?

Vega: What I love about this, and what I love about directing this play, is that I can take things that I’ve learned from every single teacher I have ever had in my life, really. Everything that makes me a unique person is what makes this a unique production. I’m using things that I learned from my acting teacher here … but I’m also using things from my high school … and I’m using things from an internship I had two summers ago, and everything from my entire life has led to this moment. What I like about it is that I can take something from every part of my life and make it this one play that I can sort of call totally mine. Except I can’t at all, because …the performances that I’m getting out of people I never would have gotten if this actor hadn’t been playing whatever role. What I like about directing is how much it is completely solitary and yet a community experience. It takes a village to raise a child; that is like this play. There’s something about directing that you just say: “This is the one thing that I did … That was me.”

Lovers & Madmen’s “Macbeth” runs Oct. 18 through 20 in Shanley Hall.