As you may or may not recall, I’ve just come off a project at the Charlestown Working Theatre. It has been my pleasure to fight direct their Advanced Youth Ensemble’s production of Macbeth. The show opens on Saturday the first and runs weekends through the ninth (for more information, check out the CWT website). This production has given me the opportunity to think about a great many things (not the least of which being “What’s the best way to kill a child, but not the infant he’s carrying, onstage?”; “How badass are the Banquos?”; and “If I were the King of Scotland, what would my signature broadsword move be?”). One of the more poignant issues came up the other day in rehearsal, and I’d like to take a moment to discuss it.
This show is a production with teens. The cast is (mostly) aged 13-18. CWT plays host to several youth programs for children of varying ages and it’s truly a family place. As a result, the director mentioned to me that she has been asked by parents if this show is appropriate for their younger children.
Alright, look. Macbeth is a violent show that deals with adult themes. Depending on the production company and the director’s imagination, sometimes the show is more violent than other times. This version of Macbeth happens to be “bloodless” (by this I mean that, while murders are staged, we are not using blood or gore effects) and the violence is relatively straightforward (the murders are “clean” without being psychotic or sociopathic; the murderers take no apparent relish in their task but rather perform it as a duty). Honestly, I think that this Macbeth is extremely appropriate for children of a certain age.
Because bad things do happen in the world; and sometimes they happen to good people. There isn’t a single news channel that wouldn’t show coverage similar to what we’re producing onstage. This world is not always a safe place to be, and coming to terms with that is a part of growing up.
We go to the theatre to be transformed. The old adage that philosophers unto ancient times have touted is that good theatre is meant to educate and entertain. What better way to teach your children about violence than to expose them to violent acts in a safe space, where no one will really get hurt, and where the consequences are reversible? Will young children feel disturbed by what they see in Macbeth? I hope so. If you can witness these kind of deeds without feeling some kind of stirring in your gut, then I don’t think you’re fit for humanity. But what a teaching moment for them; what a place to learn is a theatre.
Besides which, there’s nothing we are showing that they can’t see in to even greater extreme on television, in movies, or in video games. Did you know that gun violence in PG-13 rated films has tripled since 1985? I’ve seen enough faceless murder victims on the big screen to know that killing isn’t a thing Hollywood takes seriously. Blood, gore, assault… these are issues which we should be discussing with our children. And, luckily, they are issues which Shakespeare takes seriously. I think that Macbeth is a learning opportunity. It’s an outlet for conversation about some BIG TOUGH issues which are and are not pieces of our daily lives. Because, let’s face it, even though we are confronted with depictions of violence on an almost-daily basis, how often do we talk about it?
So I encourage you to take the opportunity that theatre has presented. Teach your children about violence in a meaningful way in hopes that they can come to respect it and, in turn, realize how impactful it can be. And, hey, maybe come see Macbeth. Just to find out what that signature move I invented might be.