Grassroots Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ brings action front and center

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Macbeth (Toria Truax) gets right into the face of her audience during the Grassroots Shakespeare Company's gender-swapped performance of Macbeth at Provo's Castle Amphitheater.
Toria Truax, playing Macbeth, gets up close and personal with the audience during the Grassroots Shakespeare Company’s gender-swapped performance of Macbeth at Provo’s Castle Amphitheater. (Sam Turner)

“Exciting. Compelling. Cathartic.” At least, I think that’s what I wrote. It was hard to read on the blood-splattered pages of my notebook.

The Grassroots Shakespeare Company encourages their audience to stand at the edge of the stage — right in the action. Their performance of “Macbeth” put viewers in the wake of the actors’ tears, sweat, and indeed, blood.

It was fake blood, of course, but the sweat and tears were real and they contributed to a four-dimensional experience that shattered the fourth wall.

“When you think of going to see Shakespeare, you think it’s going to be stuffy,” said Kenni Littlefield, a student at UVU majoring in history.

Littlefield wore a suit and tie to the performance, expecting a more traditional theater experience. “I thought I was going to come and fall asleep,” he said. “I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much.”

Macbeth (Toria Truax) counsels with Banquo (Emma Robinson) during the Grassroots Shakespeare Company's gender-swapped performance of Macbeth at Provo's Castle Amphitheater.
Toria Truax, playing Macbeth, counsels with Banquo, played by Emma Robinson, during the Grassroots Shakespeare Company’s gender-swapped performance of Macbeth at Provo’s Castle Amphitheater. (Sam Turner)

Grassroots Shakespeare has been entertaining the Provo community since 2009 and professes to be an “original practice” company. This means they emulate the the ways Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed, including having no director, no designers and extremely limited rehearsal time.

“It’s so fast-paced,” said Toria Truax, who played Macbeth. “There’s a drastic change in my performance. My performance tonight is vastly different from my performance on opening night.”

This production of “Macbeth” swapped actor’s genders, allowing Truax to play the male lead.

“It’s been challenging for me,” she said. “I want to be the Macbeth that everybody knows and knows as a man and also find the truth in it for myself. I eventually decided to sacrifice some of the masculinity for honesty.”

 Lady Macbeth (Jordan Kramer) consoles Macbeth (Toria Truax) after he returns from the king's chamber with blood on his hands during the Grassroots Shakespeare Company's gender-swapped performance of Macbeth.
Lady Macbeth, played by Jordan Kramer, consoles Macbeth (Toria Truax) after he returns from the king’s chamber with blood on his hands. The Grassroots Shakespeare Company’s gender-swapped performance of Macbeth runs through October. (Sam Turner)

The play has a longstanding history of unfortunate happenings, leading many actors to believe the play is cursed. Some actors won’t even say the play’s name and prefer to call it “the Scottish Play.”

“I usually don’t use the name for the sake of others,” said Jordan Kramer, who played Lady Macbeth. “This production had enough kinks in it to make me think, ‘maybe it’s the curse!’ But usually, I don’t have a problem with it.”

Truax also said she’s not superstitious. “I have the belief that, especially with words, they have whatever power you give them. So if I don’t give the curse of “Macbeth” any power, then it’s not going to have power over my own life.”

“Macbeth” will continue to run this week at the Castle Amphitheater in Provo. It will conclude with a special midnight showing on Oct. 31.

By Sam Turner

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