By Hope McPherson

Dates for Macbeth:
January 24-27
January 31-
February 2

All performances are at 7:30 p.m., with an additional 2:00 p.m. matinee on Saturday, February 2.

For tickets, call 206/281-2959. Visit
for the complete
40th season schedule.

Alumni and Students Make Up the Cast for
SPU's Homecoming Production of Macbeth

In 1577, English historian Raphael Holinshed wrote about an 11th century warrior, Makbeth. As legend had it, this Makbeth met three strange women who foretold his ascension to Scotland's throne. Although not royalty, Makbeth did become king in A.D. 1034, after the assassination of King Duncan. Twenty-nine years after it was written, William Shakespeare used Holinshed's work to fashion Macbeth, his shortest and most chilling tragedy.

Soon the play developed a legend of its own. From the beginning, productions of Macbeth were linked to injuries, fire and death, possibly because of its large cast, dark sets and sword fights. Before long — and as a bit of thespian "finger-crossing" — people in the theatre community stopped saying the play's title inside a playhouse. Macbeth became known as "The Scottish Play."

Nearly 400 years later, Seattle Pacific University's Theatre Department is mounting The Scottish Play as the centerpiece of its 40th theatre season. A highlight of Homecoming Weekend, the production includes several notable homecomings. Returning to direct the play, Professor Emeritus James Chapman was instrumental in establishing SPU's Theatre Department in 1961. With four decades of theatre expertise behind him, Chapman says this year's production benefits from both experienced actors and talented newcomers.

With a cast of 30, Macbeth features seven alumni, including 1995 graduate Daniel Flint in the title role. Last year, Flint worked with Chapman on Elephant Man, in which Flint also played the title role. Other alumni include Dale Anderson '87, Michael Taylor Donovan '84, Jens Eckels '01, Amy Fagerness '99, Trevor Scranton '00 and Jason Zingsheim '00.

A professional actor, Flint turned down a role in Portland, Oregon, to join SPU's Macbeth. When he learned he had the title role, though, he balked. "It's a love-hate thing," he admits. "I didn't want to play Macbeth at first." But he did want to work with Chapman again — especially after learning Chapman's unique vision for the tragedy. "In this production, events are projections of Macbeth's own will," says Flint. "In the end, it's about one person's free will."

Although most productions show Macbeth manipulated by his wife into murdering good King Duncan and usurping the throne, Chapman found something more in the play. "It's about Macbeth's own sin, which is the sin of ego and self," he explains, adding that the sin is one we see, and share, today. That's also the perspective he'll bring to freshmen in a Common Curriculum course as they read and discuss the play before attending it. "The idea is to give students the literary background behind the play," says Chapman, who adds that watching Macbeth is like falling down stairs. Once events begin, they gather speed. "It's a very direct experience."

To make Macbeth's actions and their disastrous consequences come alive for the audience, Chapman collaborated with Don Yanik. Chair of the Theatre Department and nationally recognized for his set designs, Yanik conferred with Chapman about mood and emotion as much as concrete details. "There are certain plays I've wanted to do with Jim and this is one of them," says Yanik.

To intensify the action, Chapman and Yanik are focusing on movement, evocative lighting and primal sound — with members of SPU's Percussion Ensemble supporting the action. Yanik will also use a stark set and stylized costumes and colors to create the essence of the 11th century castle and battlefield. The three eerie women won't be old hags. "I see a connection between the three weird sisters and Lady Macbeth," says Yanik, adding they won't be ugly, but captivating.

And allure, not sheer manipulation, also describes Macbeth's wife. "Lady Macbeth is one of the most exciting roles to play, but it's also frightening," says Sarah Mosher. A senior majoring in costume design and theatre, Mosher discovered a frightened woman in her role of Lady Macbeth. "She has that sense of panic we all feel right now after September 11," she says, adding that Lady Macbeth counters uncertainty by encouraging her husband's sinful choices. "Macbeth is like our times, with so much blood and death," Mosher says. "There is a message of hope, but we as human beings and Christians have to find it."

Adds Flint about The Scottish Play, "People come in expecting to see something about someone else. But I hope they walk out knowing they've seen something about themselves."

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