Shakespeare tragedy to be presented with an LDS spin

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    By Hilarie Laukat

    It?s a phenomenon feasible only at BYU. Tonight, one of Shakespeare?s darkest and most timeless classics will come to life in the Pardoe Theatre with a twist reminiscent of the Book of Mormon.

    Director Barta Heiner has set ?Macbeth,? the thematic tragedy known for its supernatural eccentricity and dark subject matter, in ancient Mesoamerica, the exact setting in which most Book of Mormon events take place. ?Macbeth? will run nightly at 7:30 except Sundays and Mondays through April 3. Tickets are $15 or $11 with student ID for general performances. Discount tickets for preview performances today and Thursday, or matinees at 2 p.m. March 21 and 28 are $8. All tickets are available via the Harris Fine Arts Ticket Office, online at byuarts.com or over the phone at (801) 422-4322.

    Before production for ?Macbeth? began, Heiner noticed correlations between characters in the play and those in certain Book of Mormon stories. She saw similar struggles and conflicts they experienced, as well as messages to be learned from each, and formed the basis of a promising new adaptation she later implemented in this production.

    ?I feel like it really fits with the text,? said Cherish Caldwell, who plays one of the infamous eerie witches in the play. ?This new setting doesn?t change the themes ? it validates them because they?re the same as lots of messages in the Book of Mormon. We have so much more to work with this way.?

    Necessary cultural variations such as costumes, set design, literary allusions and a few names have been slightly changed, but the body of Shakespeare?s original text has been untouched. Costumes used in LDS films such as ?The Testaments? were borrowed from the church?s motion picture studio. Designers spent hours researching ancient Mesoamerica to make the setting historically accurate.

    ?We have used lots of symbolism to make sure people recognize how well the story goes along with the Book of Mormon,? said Marti Hansen, a senior majoring in theater arts studies, who is stage managing ?Macbeth.? ?I think I?ve enjoyed working on this production more than many would expect ? because of the spin we have taken.?

    The title role, played by theater student Hank Florence from Camarillo, Calif., perhaps conveys some of the play?s most endearing messages through the choices he makes and their respective consequences. His interactions with the witches, his colleagues and his family will teach audience members about the power of agency, the importance of communication with our families and the nature of the adversary.

    Florence said he has enjoyed working on this production because it feels so much more familiar to him as a lifelong member of the church.

    ?The overall theme of Macbeth is a resoundingly spiritual one,? Florence said. ?It?s all about the fall of man and the journey it takes to get there. We often forget that the antagonists in the Book of Mormon are in fact complex human beings, [seen as] equals with us by the Lord.?

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