It takes nerve for a novice to get up on a stage and act a part – especially in a play where the language isn’t exactly the contemporary idiom, as in the works of William Shakespeare. And among the fraternity of actors (a notoriously superstitious lot), it takes extra nerve to accept a role in what they like to call “the Scottish play,” because merely naming it is thought to invoke bad luck, even injury. Consider, then, the steely commitment required of the group of mid-Hudson teenagers who are about to take on the task of performing the Bard’s great tragedy Macbeth at Woodstock’s historic Byrdcliffe Theatre this weekend.
The kids in question have been immersed in a seven-month rehearsal process as part of New Genesis Productions (NGP) Youth Theatre’s Young Professional Masters’ Project, a theatre class for young actors who demonstrate disciplined maturity and sincere interest in the performing arts. The not-for-profit NGP treats the performing arts as a learning tool to challenge young actors to discover a deeper understanding of themselves, within a supportive environment that promotes collaboration.
NGP’s main program, the Summer Shakespeare Intensives, is offered each summer as a two-week day camp. Young actors train in the disciplines of acting, voice, movement and stage combat at the Little Globe Outdoor Stage in West Shokan. The Masters’ Project takes the most promising of these teens to a new level of engagement in Shakespearean drama.
According to NGP artistic director Lesley Sawhill, “The young actors are supported in further honing their craft though serious study. As they analyze the play’s text, they develop a deep knowledge of and an emotional connection to Shakespeare. The extended rehearsal process provides time for learning and understanding of the language and rich culture of Shakespeare.”
The project culminates in a fully staged production at one of the area’s theatres; past productions have been presented at the Shandaken Theatre in Phoenicia and the Byrdcliffe in Woodstock. Last year’s NGP production of Hamlet at Byrdcliffe received high praise for the professional level of its acting and for the imaginative set design by teen cast member Brandon Sawhill-Aja, which was highly innovative in its use of unconventional materials. NGP’s production of Macbeth is on track to meet this standard of excellence.
Many members of the cast in this year’s production of Macbeth have been studying and performing Shakespeare for several years with NGP. The cast includes Lachlan Brooks, Marley Alford, Brandon Sawhill-Aja, Eli Sorich, Jeremy Brownstein, Sammy Furr, Helena Ojarovsky, Asa Spurlock, Rebecca Sutton, Dante Kanter, Joey Dragon and Jack Warren. Lesley Sawhill directs, with staged combat by Phil Mansfield.
New Genesis Productions presents four performances of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth at the Byrdcliffe Theatre in Woodstock on Friday and Saturday, May 25 and 26 at 7 p.m., on Saturday at 2 p.m. and on Sunday, May 27 at 4 p.m. Tickets go for $10 general admission, $5 for children aged under 12 years. For reservations, call (845) 657-5867 or visit www.newgenesisproductions.org.