Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

By on July 3, 2018

Off Square’s Thin Air Shakespeare returns with ‘Macbeth’

Orson Welles and Jeanette Nolan in the 1948 film ‘Macbeth.’ (Wikipedia Commons)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – While watching Off Square Theatre Company’s production of Macbeth, you might notice a few women that appear as medical workers, household staff, or part of a crowd. These women look a little different, but still blend into the fabric of the story. They are the famous witches of Macbeth. In director Edgar Landa’s show, they aren’t slithering on the floor. They are “pretty humanoid” and observers of the world.

Landa is bringing to life his version of Macbeth beginning Thursday at the Amphitheater at the Center for the Arts.

Landa’s production focuses on the classic story of murder and deceit and shows how the witches might plant an idea or possibility into a character’s mind, but they never order an act, instead the characters make their own choices.

This is Landa’s fourth year directing Off Square Theatre Company’s “Thin Air Shakespeare,” but it’s the first year he is producing a tragedy for the free outdoor show.

“This is an opportunity to do something a little darker and test the waters,” he said. “Of the tragedies, it’s the most accessible.”

As a refresher, Macbeth is set in Scotland and is the story of a soldier, Macbeth, played by Luis Kelly-Duarte, whom three witches prophesize will one day be King. At the urging of Lady Macbeth, played by Christina Okolo, the soldier plans to speed up his destiny by murdering the current king which begins a series of dark events.

“It’s a great story about power and how power corrupts us,” Landa said.   Lady Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most interesting characters, he said, and that the idea of who is in control and who makes who do what is a compelling question. “There aren’t really heroes in the play. Everyone is fallible.”

The show is known for its violence and fight scenes, but Landa is aware that Thin Air Shakespeare is a family event. The violence isn’t gratuitous and some of it is eluded to instead of shown on stage, he said.

Trampas Thompson, who grew up in Jackson, choreographed the sword fighting. The professional stuntman has worked on movies like Pirates of the Caribbean but he is also an actor in the show and plays Banquo, Menteith and a murderer.

Many of the main characters in the cast of 16 are professional actors from Los Angeles and some have returned multiple summers to perform in Thin Air Shakespeare. The L.A. additions allow local actors to work alongside the full-time professionals and help build on Off Square’s mission to provide Jackson with professional theater, Landa said.

Landa said he didn’t have a concept or a twist on the show. People often like to take Shakespeare and set it in different eras or with strange costumes. For this show, people can expect a more classic production.

“For me it’s about telling the story first and foremost,” he said.

The summer show is held outside in the tradition of Shakespeare in the Park and festivals around the country, and how Shakespeare’s plays were originally produced—in the open-air Globe Theatre, Landa said.

The natural surroundings and the amphitheater at the Center for the Arts make it a perfect setting. “And people in Jackson want to be outside in the summer,” he said.

The sound of the rodeo or local outdoor parties might mix with the voices of actors reciting Old English lines or the sound of swords colliding in battle. It’s part of the ambiance that makes an outdoor performance a unique event, Landa said.

Thin Air will also host special guests Molly Moon Thorn & Friends on Friday and Saturday. American Sign Language interpreters will sign the show Friday as well. On Saturday, Jackson Hole Writers will conduct a poetry reading. The Shakespeare Conservatory will have a youth performance July 13. And the Pipes and Highland Dancers of Teton & District Performing Arts will provide the pre-show entertainment July 14 and 15.

Thin Air Shakespeare: Macbeth, 6:30 p.m. pre-show, 7:30 p.m. performance, Friday through Sunday and July 13 to 15, Amphitheater at Center for the Arts, free. People are encouraged to bring picnic supplies and arrive early.

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