Feel the season’s gloom with BPA’s Macbeth

Just in time for dark, rainy evenings, Bainbridge Performing Arts is staging a production of Shakespeare’s classic tale of witches, ghosts and betrayal.

Read Kitsap Sun arts reporter Michael C. Moore’s story below.

Nay Kilts! ‘Macbeth’ Gets a Makeover at BPA
By Michael C. Moore

“Something wicked this way comes” to Bainbridge Performing Arts. Again.

For the second straight year, director Steven Fogell’s going dark for the theater’s season-opening offering. Last fall it was “Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical,” and this year Fogell tackles the even more sinister “Macbeth,” William Shakespeare’s tragedy of ambition and betrayal.

“Well, it is Halloween,” Fogell said of the upcoming holiday, “so it’s the time of the season.

“But we also have a big connection with the high school, and (Bainbridge) sophomores are reading ‘Macbeth’ right now,” Fogell added. “And it’s been on my list of (shows) I’ve wanted to see here.”

If you’re worried about Fogell falling into a dark-hued rut since directing “The Wizard of Oz” two seasons ago, don’t worry. He was quick to point out that his next BPA mainstage assignment is the season-ending musical, “The Light in the Piazza.”

Based very loosely on actual characters from Scotland’s violent history, “Macbeth” is your classic spook story, with ghosts and witches framing the plot of an ambitious prince and the murderous lust — on both his part and that of his even more ambitious lady wife — for greater power.

But Fogell’s not planning on telling it as a traditional kilts-and-tartans saga. His production will stick to the original text, but will bear little resemblence to the murky Scottish moors where the story actually would’ve played out.

“We’re putting it in more of a nondescript sort of modern world,” he said of BPA’s staging, which will be the first production for the company’s new lighting designer, Laura Gay. “We’re mixing genres with the look, playing a lot on colors and military outfits that could be perceived as futuristic, or at least modern.”

Fogell will centralize the action and bring it closer to the audience, using lighting and curtains to give his staging a “claustrophobic” feel.

He’ll also employ the haunting solo cello compositions of Jami Sieber to segue from scene to scene.

“I’d been looking for three months for the kind of music I wanted to use to bring in the scenes,” Fogell said. “I was going through hundreds of artists, and I came across her. I wrote her a short (e-mail) note, not knowing anything about her, and it turns out she’s from here.”

The Seattle-based singer-cellist-composer, who’ll be in concert at Collective Visions Art Gallery in Bremerton Nov. 21, was only too happy to have her music incorporated into the production.

“It’s perfect,” Fogell said. “It really adds a lot.”

The title role will be played by Joseph Fountain, whose only previous exposure on Kitsap stages was as The Beast in Ovation! Musical Theatre Bainbridge’s production of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” during the summer of 2006.

Keridwyn Deller, who Fogell met when they both worked at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, returns to BPA after an absence of several years to play Lady Macbeth. She was Hermia in the company’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“I asked her to come over and audition,” Fogell said, “and she was tremendous.”

Another casting coup was landing Lee Ann Hittenberger not only to play one of the three witches, but to choreograph the production, as well. The Seattle actress, costumer and choreographer was last on this side of Puget Sound in an acclaimed performance as Miss Helen in Changing Scene Theatre Northwest’s “The Road to Mecca,” also during the summer of 2006.

The witches — the other two are played by Claire Hosterman, just off lead duty in BPA Theatre School’s summer production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” and newcomer Valerie Ann — will play an expanded role in BPA’s rendering. In addition to the scenes where they have dialog, Fogell will have them lurking about through other scenes, monitoring or even egging on the proceedings.

Or, maybe, “lurking” isn’t an appropriate word.

“They’re not going to be like traditional witches,” Fogell said. “They’ll be different. I think (audiences) will be pleasantly surprised by what we’ve done with them.”

In general, Fogell said he aimed to emphasize the female characters in “Macbeth,” who might’ve been back-burnered over the years in favor of the play’s macho, sword-fighting, guy-magnet aspects.

“I wanted to break that stereotype of it being such a masculine show,” he said. “Shakespeare wrote the power of the women into the show. We just want to bring it out.”