Monday, March 12, 2007

Review: Macbeth, from Perseverance Theatre

I've been such a delinquent blogger this week. How quickly the days are flying by! This weekend I have been in Washington, DC, attending the Ecumenical Advocacy Days. I will be writing more about that in the next few days, but today I want to highlight something else I got to enjoy as part of my time away.

Friends of mine from college live in the area, and they told me about "Shakespeare in Washington," a several month long festival in DC of celebrating Shakespeare and his influence on culture and entertainment. They'd looked over events that would coincide with my time in DC, and found out the (fairly) new National Museum of the American Indian would be hosting the Perseverance Theatre's production of Macbeth.

Perseverance Theatre is based in Juneau, Alaska, and focuses on working with Alaskan artists and showing work that highlights unique Alaskan experiences. This production of Macbeth was done in the style/context of indigenous Southeast Alaska culture, according to the program, "fusing language, music, dancing, and visual design of this rich and living culture." What does this mean? A very amazing and unique production.

The production was part in English and part in Tlingit, the language and name of the indigenous people of Southeast Alaska. All group scenes were spoken in Tlingit, with English translation projected in corners of the stage. At first, this was hard to get into - watching the action and watching the screen. But I found it easier to manage as the play unfolded, especially since I knew the story of Macbeth. In fact, in the first soliloquy, which was spoken in English, the sudden which to English caught me so off-guard that it took me a minute to figure out what was being said! Tlingit is an 'endangered language' - only a few hundred speakers left, making this performance even more rare. According to the artistic director, PJ Paparelli, the performance of Macbeth was about when "self takes precedence over community, a significant taboo in Tlingit life, and an unfortunate reality in communities around the world." Native music, ceremonial dances, the three witches appearing more as animal-like creatures than human creatures, the symbolism - all of these elements added to the Tlingit perspective in the play and the unique experience.

The acting was excellent - standouts were the three witches - Lily Hudson, Austin Tagaban, and Sakara "Sky" Dunlap and Gene Tagaban as Banquo. But all of the cast was excellent. The show only plays here in DC one more weekend, but if you're around the area, I'd recommend it!
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