Sometimes it's not so good to be the king. Especially when you have kinsmen like Macbeth and his bloodlusting wife Lady Macbeth.
In a nutshell, Shakespeare's tragedy, Macbeth, is the story of a good man, a loyal general to the king of Scotland who succumbs to temptation, obsession and an insatiable lust for power when a witch predicts he will be king.
When he shares the witch's prediction with his wife, she hatches a plan to murder the current king so her husband can rule.
And so the tragedy begins.
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But as Macbeth claws his way to the top, he loses much of his humanity. His friends become his enemies, and he and his wife remain childless. In the end, his wife dies and he is ultimately murdered.
A gruesome story, to be sure. And, an irresistible challenge for a high school drama club.
Macbeth kicks off Richland High School's theater season Oct. 13 in the school's auditorium.
Tackling one of the Bard's more grisly plays is a learning experience, and also the students' choice, said Ellicia Elliott, director and drama teacher at Richland High.
"I want my students to become comfortable with Shakespeare's works so they aren't intimidated by it, but rather learn to love (the stories) and realize how powerful these plays still are," Elliott said.
"It's a great story that really catches teenagers' interest -- murder, witches, revenge. Much of what attracted Shakespeare's audiences back then (the 1600s) still attracts audiences now."
Taking on the role of Macbeth will be senior Grayson Stamps. Lady Macbeth is portrayed by Rachel Firen Hodges, a sophomore.
Stamps doesn't see the troubled Macbeth as a man full of bloodlust, but an ordinary man whose humanity has gone awry.
"When Macbeth meets three witches who tell him he's going to become king, that's what kicks off the whole story of his bloody (climb to the throne) with his wife," Stamps said. "My take on this man is that he might seem strong, but in the end he is like anyone else in the world. He's weak and can't control what he wants, and in the end it makes him so crazy that there is no humanity left in him."
Elliott agrees that the play is violent, but it is also packed with good messages.
"We're focusing on why it is imperative in being careful what you do, and how you pursue what you want," she said. "Shakespeare does some really amazing things in this play, and comments on a lot of topics that are still prevalent today.
"He shows us that even a hero like Macbeth can fall when he becomes obsessed with himself."
Part of the allure of a Shakespearean play is tackling the language.
"Shakespeare's language is so beautiful," Stamps said. "It has been very difficult grasping the language, but I'm so glad I got the chance to be in a show so mystical."
Hodges also found speaking Shakespearean challenging, but once conquered, it flows off the tongue easily and translates beautifully to the audience, she said.
As for her role, she's up for that challenge as well.
"I think of Lady Macbeth as a loose cannon," she said. "She can transform from the perfect wife, loving and kind, to a power-hungry temptress and manipulator at the flip of a switch. She will do anything to bring her husband up, and this drive becomes something extremely dangerous."
As for the violent nature of the play, Hodges had an insightful philosophy about the story as well as her character. She also admitted it wasn't easy portraying someone so evil.
"Concerning the violence, I have no problem with it," Hodges said. "Nowadays, we are surrounded by violence from movies, etc. Macbeth is just one of the original horror stories, meant to creep you out, invite fear, curdle your blood and give you nightmares."
Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13-15 with a 2 p.m. matinee Oct. 15. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at the door.
The rest of Richland High's theater season includes And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank on March 2-3, 9-10, and Honk! A musical tale about the Ugly Duckling is April 27-28 and May 4-5.
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org