Steamboat students bring out the bright side of a tragedy
Steamboat Springs High School takes on ‘Macbeth’
April 7, 2011
Steamboat Springs — On Tuesday evening, Steamboat Springs High School junior Hanna Porteous sat quietly on the auditorium stage as the eerie stage lights flickered across the faces of her co-stars.
It wasn't a place her friends, or even Porteous, ever expected her to be: hanging around after school for play rehearsal and memorizing Shakespearean prose.
She hadn't done a theater production since seventh grade, and she never had hung out with any of the drama students. But something motivated her to audition for "Macbeth" two months ago.
"It's opening doors," said Porteous, who gave up six shifts at her after-school job to do the play. "I've had to do better in school, and I couldn't do stupid things. … This is good for me. It helps you prioritize in life."
Porteous, who was cast as Lady Macbeth in the high school's spring play after what she called a "terrible" audition, shares the lead role with Cara Martine Becker.
The cast of 17 will perform a one hour and 15 minute version of the thrilling tale of murder and betrayal this weekend.
Performances begin at 7 p.m. tonight in the high school auditorium. There also will be 7 p.m. performances Friday and Saturday as well as a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee. Tickets are $10, or $5 for students with activities cards.
Those who enter the auditorium this weekend will find it transformed. For "Macbeth," the audience will sit in chairs set up on tiered risers on the stage itself. The regular auditorium seats will not be used. The intimate setup means the audience's feet will be just inches from the actors, who are enclosed in their Shakespearean world by a few thin strips of tape on the floor.
There is no set, and costumes are minimal. The lighting is dim, and the staging is simple enough to allow the audience to view the action from all angles.
Director and high school drama teacher Amy Pottinger said it's been an adjustment for the cast to have the audience practically on top of them.
"I've been really prepping the kids that they have to be really prepared at every point," she said. "The audience can tell, because they're so close, and the kids will be able to see the audience's reaction."
Chris Kolvereid, who plays Duncan, the King of Scotland, said the bare-bones stage setting enhances the dark tone of the show.
"It's supposed to make you feel claustrophobic," he said. "Like you're cramped in this tiny space with a bunch of crazy people."
And that's exactly what happens as the main characters, whose killings and betrayals slowly drive them mad, pull the audience into their delusions.
At the center of the madness is Macbeth, played by junior Christian Weeden. Weeden said he wants to study psychology in college, making the play's storyline especially intriguing to him.
"I interpret (the show) as, the brain is a fantastically mystical and complex thing," he said. "If pushed and prodded, we don't know how the brain reacts, how one thing leads to another. Where does it stop?"
All of the students admitted their initial fear at tackling Shakespeare as high schoolers, especially a work as dark and heavy as "Macbeth."
"It's not how you talk every day," Porteous said about the Shakespearean script. "It has to sound like it's the first time you say it every time. It has to sound like words coming out of your mouth and not like you're reading it.
"It's like an English class."
Weeden said the group dedicated many rehearsals in the five-week period to analyzing the text a few lines at a time. With that in-depth understanding, the actors delivered their lines at dress rehearsal Tuesday with a practiced flow and poignant phrasing.
"At first I was a little scared of high schoolers doing Shakespeare," Weeden said. "To be honest, I wasn't sure if we had the talent for it."
But all of the students — and Pottinger — agreed the show has developed impressively. And for Porteous, it's going to be an unforgettable experience.
"Maybe I won't remember all the times I got in trouble or whatever," she said. "But I'll definitely remember being the lead in the school play."