Thursday, August 18, 2016

Cool, Comfortable Macbeth

YWAA's annual outing at Boscobel, Aug. 14, featured a performance of Macbeth by the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival after a late-afternoon rain cooled off a hot summer day in Garrison (YWAA photos)

Maria Christina-Oliveras '01 played the role of Macbeth in an audience of rows of Yale alumni and guests. (YWAA photos)
The weather cooperated in the end. After a day of scorching heat and a before-dark thunderstorm, the evening setting at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival was cool, comfortable. Hot temperatures had scared away a few ticket-buyers for the production of Macbeth under the big tent. The few hundred who gathered received special Hudson River treatment—a welcome after-rain breeze as they watched Shakespeare characters wrestle mightily with 17th-century power struggles.

The annual YWAA outing at Boscobel in Garrison, Aug. 14, featured Yale alum Maria Christina-Oliveras ’01 playing the male role of Macbeth. Christina-Oliveras was tasked with bringing female sensibilities to a character who spends much of the play plotting, by any means necessary, to become king of Scotland.

And she performed the role in front of several rows of Yale alumni and one of her Yale Shakespeare professors, Martin Biggs. True to YWAA custom, before the performance at the nearby Hastings Center, Biggs lectured to YWAA guests and invited his former student to discuss Macbeth and the uniqueness of her playing this male role. His ex-pupil talked about “the curse of Macbeth,” the reluctance of performers to mention the play by name, and some personal evidence of why that might be true.

During the performance, Christina-Oliveras had a chance to exhibit many talents—from pantomiming violent scenes and exuding Macbethian rage to singing a handful of her lines (as called for in this performance).

She was joined on the tent’s dirt-floor stage by two other female actresses in director Lee
Sunday Evans’ effort to present this modern variation of Macbeth: Female characters who normally observe violent activities of male counterparts become those male characters to better understand malevolent intent and violent behavior. HVSF just doesn’t do Shakespeare. It shakes up the performance, reinterprets themes, and modernizes the setting. It asks characters like Christina-Oliveras to wear costumes that seem more like 2016 than 1616 and make gestures that are more akin to 21st-century dance steps than gyrations from the 1500's.

During a busy Boscobel summer, Christina-Oliveras, who went to high school in New Rochelle before enrolling at Yale, has also appeared in the Shakespeare play As You Like It.

YWAA board members Dan Leonard '76 and Rich Fabbro ’76 arranged the day's Yale events, substituting for long-time Boscobel organizer, Bruce Jennings '71, now a Nashville resident.

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