Macbeth folioArguably the greatest play in the history of English literature, Shakespeare’s Macbeth is challenging and rewarding, both for the audience and the performers. Iowa Stage presents Macbeth for five evenings only staring this Wednesday June 12 and running through Sunday June 16. Part of their yearly Shakespeare on the Lawn series, it will be performed outdoors at the beautiful Salisbury House and Gardens.

The story of Macbeth is one of ambition, alliance, doubt, and despair, all essential parts of the human condition. And although the play was written 400 years ago, it still speaks to the seductive nature of power, and the price paid by those in its proximity. Modern narratives use these building blocks to create their own expansive tapestries, and yet few have done it as effectively as Shakespeare.


The Man Who Would Be King

Tom Geraty is playing the title role in this Iowa Stage production... although that wasn’t his initial thought when he auditioned. “I went into the auditions for Macbeth thinking and wishing to play one of the witches. Before I had a chance to do that, I read for the role of Duncan and thought that went pretty well. Then [director] Brad Dell asked me what I thought about playing Macbeth and would I consider reading for the part; I was completely caught off guard.”

“But I read with Alissa Tschetter-Siedschlaw, I felt something click, and lo-and-behold, we both were cast to play the parts. There are roles that I coveted and spent hours prepping for which ended in bitter disappointment when I didn't get the call. This role came to me not unlike the witches appearing to Macbeth on the heath, almost out of the ether, with awesome and terrifying report.”

Macbeth GeratyGeraty already is familiar with Macbeth (as are most dedicated thespians), especially since this is his second time through the part... although the first time was awhile ago. “I did Macbeth in college at Drake under the direction of William S.E. ‘Doc’ Coleman. Fortunately, I only remembered one line ("Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow...") from all those years ago, so I feel this is a fresh better be! I am most excited by the work itself. Macbeth is awesome, but working with the actors I am working with, Shawn Wilson and James Serpento always raise the bar, meeting and working with new actors young and old, and Brad Dell directing, and just trying to give my all to the process and performances means everything.”

“As far as playing Macbeth, I'll just quote Cubs manager Joe Madden and others with the mantra, "Don't suck!" And I dare say that I will strive to be the best Macbeth anyone at Salisbury House and Gardens has ever seen; why else take it on? Specifically, the sum of Macbeth's parts is indeed greater than those amazing parts because some of those parts are down right evil.  We have to look at the whole when we think of him, and I hope the audience does the same when they walk away from the Gardens at night.”


Lady of Ambition

Macbeth AlissaAs Lady Macbeth, Alissa Tschetter-Siedschlaw is the power behind the throne, and the guilt of her actions in the play create some of the most memorable theatre scenes ever. Tschetter-Siedschlaw relishes the opportunity to play this iconic character. “Yes, Lady MacBeth is truly a bucket list role. I think her decent into madness began long before we ever meet her. She has miscarried, likely more than once and lost a young baby. These experiences can drive most women into very dark places, and even in modern times, others flee from grief... then imagine a time when others would not only avoid you but believe you to be cursed or contagious.”

Shakespeare’s text gives many clues into this isolation. “Notice Lady MacBeth is not surrounded by ladies-in-waiting or other women as other Shakespearean women are. She also speaks more like the witches than anyone else. This gives me a clue to how much she’s desperate for relief in any way possible. She doesn’t do what she does for her... her husband is the love of her life and she wants him to have everything. At this point she feels she has nothing to lose. There are some frightening power parallels within our current political climate that I find horrific and deeply concerning.”


The Salisbury Realm

Macbeth SalisburyPerforming such a great and expansive work such as Macbeth is challenging enough, but when your “stage” is the outdoor setting of the castle-like Salisbury House and Gardens, an actor’s approach has to be modified just a bit. “This is my 11th year out of the past 16 years at Salisbury House and it is one of my favorites. It lends itself so well to the work, but yes, weather can be very frustrating. We play a bit bigger in that venue than in a more intimate theatre... we have to.”

Geraty credits Macbeth director Brad Dell with being able to utilize the space effectively. Dell has directed previous shows at the Salisbury House, and Geraty knows Dell will take care of his cast and crew. “Our rehearsal space is probably a quarter of the size of the immediate area we will have to play upon at Salisbury, and is one level as opposed to the three or four levels of playing space at Salisbury. Our director, Brad Dell, does an excellent job of reminding us where audience members sit and how to best position ourselves in relation to them during scene work in rehearsals. It is a big challenge as actors because when the rehearsal process moves to Salisbury House and Gardens we spend a big chunk of time and energy adapting to the space, which could be perhaps better spent focusing on character relationships and development.”

Macbeth table“That being said, the vast experience Brad has in directing Shakespeare at Salisbury makes him an amazingly insightful director as he guides us all through this process. That is a big relief, and one less worry as an actor to know we are in good hands. I personally don't feel the weather is an issue, unless the show is cancelled or delayed due to storms. I like the heat; I stay hydrated, and really once we are underway I don't even think about it; it's all business and creation.”

Geraty is ready for audiences to come and see the twists and turns of Macbeth, and to draw their own conclusions. “I'll only say that I think Macbeth fits into the world we live in here and now as well as or better than any play he wrote. All I want to do is honor the vision of the director and the world we are all creating, oh, and not suck. I prefer to let the audience do their own interpreting. It's always better to show than tell.”

Macbeth runs from Wednesday through Sunday, June 12-17, presented by Iowa Stage outdoors at the beautiful Salisbury House and Gardens. Tickets are available through the Salisbury House website

Iowa Stage Salisbury House and Gardens Tom Geraty Alissa Tschetter-Siedschlaw