Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Scottish Plague

Though I was raised to be a rationalist and tend not to indulge in superstition, I find that somewhere along life's path, I have, quite against my better judgement, become an actor and so must contend with the curse of "The Scottish Play".

My first encounter with this phenomenon was in December of 2004 when I joined a short-lived commedia dell'arte troupe (this was before I became a member of i Sebastiani.) Under the influence of several nights of too little sleep, too much coffee, and a Shakespeare pastische, I found myself compulsively mentioning Macbeth as if to test the hypothesis of "actors are a cowardly and superstitious lot." The result was being repeatedly tossed out of the practice space by the director and made to spin around and speak incantations several times that evening until I was cured of this compulsion of mine. The hypothesis was correct.

I suspect that, amongst the many sources of the curse, such as the folklore that surrounds the play, and the sheer amount of fight scenes, I suspect that the curse comes from the fact that some of the most compelling poetry of the play itself is also the most graphically violent dialogue. Speaking these wonderfully written lines over and over again is bound to have effects on the speaker.

Now that I am actually in a production of Macbeth, we have encountered just that curse, for various reasons, we have lost both the actor who were to play the tyrant whom we shall call "Mackers" and the one who was to play Donalbain. If replacements are not found in due time, we will have to move the show dates up a few weeks.

While taking five at last night's rehearsals, one of the witches suggested that that maybe it was not a curse, but an act by the theatre gods to find us the ideal Macbeth (there I go, typing the name one dare not speak but at least I am not in a theatre) and Donalbain.

Actors are a cowardly and superstitious lot.

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