Macbeth Monday: Q&A with Lighting Designer Dan Kimble

Michael Stewart as Macbeth in The Rep's production of Macbeth. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

Michael Stewart as Macbeth in The Rep’s production of Macbeth. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

To highlight all of the cool aspects of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, we have launched a week blog series called Macbeth Mondays!

In the final week, we are highlighting the incredible lighting elements of the Shakespeare tragedy with some insight from Lighting Designer Dan Kimble. Find out his approach for the production, how the set affects the design, the cool effects created just for the show, plus more.

Here is what he had to say:

Q: What piqued your interest in lighting design?

A: I was first exposed to theatre in high school. I was in shows like Oklahoma! and The Music Man, but I was most interested in how the lighting worked. I was fascinated by everything that went into lighting a show: the color options, power requirements, angle and placement, the followspots, etc. I started college without knowing what major I wanted to pursue. Fortunately, I had to take a theatre class as part of the general education requirements for all majors. In that class, the students had to work on tech crew for one of the university’s mainstage shows. I asked to be a followspot operator for Annie Get Your Gun and loved doing it. After talking with the professor of the class and learning that people had full careers being lighting designers, I was hooked.

Q: How do you approach the lighting design for a play like Macbeth?

A: Most of Shakespeare’s plays can be (and frequently are) interpreted in a variety of ways; the creative license can be very broad. The first step is to read the script and understand what the text is giving you. Any questions moving forward can usually be answered by referring to the script, especially with Shakespeare. After thinking about what preliminary concepts I want for the lighting, the next step is beginning a dialogue with the director and the other members of the creative team. Director Bob Hupp was great with knowing the themes he wanted to convey while allowing me to focus on the story I wanted to tell with the lighting. Studying the work of the other designers (scenic, props, costumes, music, and sound) also helped inform my approach because it was crucial that I support their concepts while also helping it all come together.

Q: How does the set affect your design?

Kurt Benjamin Smith as Malcolm in The Rep's production of Macbeth. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

Kurt Benjamin Smith as Malcolm in The Rep’s production of Macbeth. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

A: No other design element affects the lighting of a show more than the set. Lighting a show is 50 percent lighting the actors and 50 percent lighting the set. Scenic design, though self-sustaining, can give me great surfaces, structures and details to use to create environments and tell my story, much like in Macbeth. However, it can also create physical challenges when I am trying to figure out where to put lighting fixtures to achieve the looks that I want. Sometimes, a wall or some other scenic element can be between me and the ideal lighting angle. But, as part of a creative team, those challenges are discussed and solved in a way that supports the show and its overall aesthetic.

Q: In addition to the lights, there will special effects in the show. What will patrons be able to expect?

A: Without giving anything away, expect to see some things that you haven’t seen on our stage before. We incorporated a new design element into Macbeth, and I believe it is quite successful and helps particular scenes have a eerie and creepy feel (hint, hint).

Q: What do you enjoy most about creating the design for theatre?

A: I enjoy helping to create the moments that only a live performance can give you. The goosebumps, the awe and the surprise. Sure, more can be accomplished in a movie, but as an audience member, you are not an active member of that viewing. As a patron of The Rep, you are as much a part of those moments on stage as the actors, designers and technicians are. No two performances are the same; each show is singular and unique. It’s just part of what makes theatre so great.

See the cool lighting yourself by booking your tickets before the show ends this Sunday, Sept. 27– call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visit TheRep.org.

And learn everything else you need to before seeing the drama by checking out our study guide here!

Macbeth Monday: Q&A with Costume Designer Marianne Custer

Our first show of the 40th Anniversary MainStage Season is opening this week!

And a new show means a new blog series. To highlight all of the cool aspects of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, we are launching a week blog series called Macbeth Mondays!

This week, we are highlighting the elaborate costumes you see onstage– from the handcrafted leather armor to the plaid capes, linen tunics, moccasin shoes and more. Dramaturg and Assistant Director Paige Reynolds had the chance to talk with costume designer Marianne Custer about her inspiration.

Here is what she had to say:

MacbethCostume1

Designer Marianne Custer’s sketch of a Macbeth soldier complete with a plaid and fur-lined cape, leather armor, handcrafted moccasin shoes and linen tunic.

Q: What did you find most compelling about designing Macbeth?

A: Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most produced plays. I’ve designed it once before rather long ago, so it was interesting to me to work on it again from today’s perspective. I think the use of technology in this production will make the supernatural elements of the play more believable and reduce the potential for unintentional humor. The play is a grand ghost story, with hauntings, witches and murder. It’s also a play about how a guilty conscience will betray one’s worst secrets. Would it be the same play if the ambitious Macbeths had been able to rise to power and commit their murderous acts without fear or regret, as today’s ambitious power mongers seem to do?

Q: What can you tell us about your inspiration? Where did you go to cultivate your vision for the overall look?

A: Because this production is to be set in the early Romanesque centuries, my research and inspiration was Celtic costume of this era. Very little change occurred in costume during the first thousand years after Christ. Fashion didn’t exist and news didn’t travel very
fast. The costumes are designed to appear primitive to support the primitive greed and superstition that lead to Macbeth’s undoing.

I wanted to emphasize the Scottish in the play through use of “plaid” fabric and kilts. Early kilts were not made of the clan tartans that we know today, but were solid or plaid, probably depending upon the wealth of the wearer. Shreds of fabric from graves have come to prove that plaid and checked fabrics existed among the Celts during Roman times. (The term “plaid” in the discussion of Scottish kilts can lead to confusion, as plaid is the proper term for the upper body covering of the ancient kilt and the term used for the strip of “tartan” cloth worn diagonally over the torso in more modern times.) Kilts were originally long lengths of cloth that could also serve as blankets. Scots would place their belts on the ground, pleat their blankets over the belt, lie down and belt the pleated cloth around their waists. The bottom would serve as the kilt and the top could be pulled over one shoulder or draped over the head as protection from cold and rain.

CostumeDesign2

Custer’s sketch of another soldier complete with a plaid cape, leather armor, handcrafted moccasin shoes and linen tunic.

The only clothing materials that existed in Scotland at the time were wool, linen, leather and fur. The Thanes in Macbeth are knights and warriors. They live rough and battle hard, as the prologue to our production will demonstrate. The warrior’s clothing is rough, battle worn, and dirty. They were not great bathers. Though metal armor existed during this period, we are using leather armor in an effort to make the costumes appear even more primitive. Long hair with braids, full beards and long mustaches also help to emphasize the primitive nature of our characters.

Q: Is there one particular element of the design that you are especially excited about? Why?

A: I just hope to be able to make all the elements of the costumes work together. The costumes are, in part, invented, so making them all seem part of the same world is a my imperative. I also hope to find a place with the actors in which the elements of the costumes support their characters and the action without them feeling buried in “the Look”. This will be one of my most important challenges in this production. “The Look”, however, is important to maintain, not just in terms of establishing a primitive culture and helping to set the time and place, but because several actors play multiple roles, “ the Look” aids in changing the appearance of the actor from one role to the next.

Q: Where are you from? How often do you work at the Rep?

A: I am from Minneapolis. I left long ago to design costumes and teach. I am a professor of 42 years at the University of Tennessee, where I developed and still head a highly successful MFA program in design for theatre. I believe Macbeth is my tenth production
at the Rep. I love working here with Bob Hupp, Cliff Baker and other talented directors. Working on August Osage County was truly a privilege. I saw the production on Broadway, saw the movie, and believe The Rep’s production better than either. I love working with the Rep’s staff, which I find welcoming, talented and always willing to give their best to help
create a vision.

Pulled from the Macbeth study guide, prepared by Paige Reynolds.

Check back every Monday to uncover a new aspect of this incredible Shakespearean tragedy and book your tickets by calling (501) 378-0405 or visiting TheRep.org.

And learn everything else you need to before seeing the drama by checking out our study guide here!

Macbeth Monday: A Rundown

Picture 1

Seth Rabinowitz as Macduff in Macbeth. Photo by John David Pittman.

Our first show of the 40th Anniversary MainStage Season is upon us!

A new show means a new blog series. To highlight all of the cool aspects of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, we are launching a week blog series called Macbeth Mondays!

To kick things off, we thought it would be a good idea to look at the synopsis, characters and really why Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp wanted to bring this show to The Rep stage to start our landmark season.

Synopsis 

Featuring eerie witch-like figures conspiring in riddles and chants to the backdrop of a great battle coming to an end, the beginning of Macbeth promises a story that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats.  A captain reports the details of the battle to King Duncan, praising the bravery of two generals, Macbeth and Banquo.  As Macbeth and Banquo travel home, they encounter the “Weird Sisters,” three witches who prophesy great honors in store for both men.  They tell Macbeth that he will become the Thane of Cawdor, and eventually, the king.  They tell Banquo that although he will not be king, his descendants will.  The first prophesy is fulfilled immediately when Duncan awards the title of Thane of Cawdor to Macbeth in return for his successful military service in the preceding battles.  He writes of the witches’ predictions to his wife, who begins strategizing how she will help her husband claim the crown.  When they find out the king plans to spend a night at their castle, the Macbeths decide to murder him in his sleep.

Malcolm and Donalbain, Duncan’s sons, run away in fear of their own lives, and Macbeth becomes king.  The rest of the play reveals the personal and political consequences of Macbeth’s act of regicide:  he and his wife, his former “partner in greatness,” drift apart, he plots murder after murder to cover up his initial crime, he desperately seeks out further help from the witches, he is plagued with insomnia, and he is terrified by the haunting of a ghost.  Lady Macbeth, too, suffers for her part in the murder of the king—she experiences distressing episodes of sleepwalking, and ultimately, deteriorates to the point of death.  In the end, Macbeth’s tyranny is brought to an end when he is defeated in battle by Macduff and Malcolm, who claims his right to the throne.  The play seems less interested in the eventual restoration of order than itis in the cost of corruption to the human soul.

“The original House of Cards. It’s fitting to start off a milestone season with the English language’s greatest author,” said Bob Hupp, Producing Artistic Director at Arkansas Repertory Theatre. “Shakespeare keeps us honest, and tests our mettle when we seek to tell great stories that demand to live on a stage. I’ve been reading and seeing productions of Macbeth for more than 30 years, now I’m ready to direct it for you this fall.”

Characters

  • Macbeth: a Scottish general and the thane of Glamis who is led to wicked thoughts by the prophecies of the three witches, especially after their prophecy that he will be made thane of Cawdor comes true. 
  • Lady Macbeth: Macbeth’s wife, a deeply ambitious woman who lusts for power and position. 
  • The Weird Sisters: three “black and midnight hags” who plot mischief against Macbeth using charms, spells, and prophecies.
  • Banquo: The brave, noble general whose children, according to the witches’ prophecy, will inherit the Scottish throne. 
  • Duncan: the good King of Scotland whom Macbeth, in his ambition for the crown, murders. 
  • Macduff: a Scottish nobleman hostile to Macbeth’s kingship from the start. 
  • Malcolm: the son of Duncan, whose restoration to the throne signals Scotland’s return to order following Macbeth’s reign of terror. 
  • Fleance: Banquo’s son, who survives Macbeth’s attempt to murder him.
  • Lennox, Ross, Menteith, Angus and Caithness: Scottish noblemen.
  • The Murderers: a group of ruffians conscripted by Macbeth to murder Banquo, Fleance (whom they fail to kill), and Macduff’s wife and children.
  • A Porter: the drunken doorman of Macbeth’s castle.
  • Lady Macduff: Macduff’s wife.
  • Macduff children: Killed by the murderers.
  • Donalbain: Duncan’s son and Malcolm’s younger brother.
  • Siward: Earl of Northumberland and uncle to Malcolm and Donalbain. Aids Malcolm in defeating Macbeth.
  • Young Siward: Son of Siward. Killed by Macbeth.

The Shakespeare drama takes The Rep stage Sept. 11-27! Book your tickets to Macbeth by calling (501) 378-0405 or visiting TheRep.org.

And learn everything else you need to before seeing the drama by checking out our study guide here!