Prime Stock Theatre actors tackled ‘Julius Caesar’ in 2016. (Advocate file photo).

Red Deer summer gains cultural caché with Bard on Bower’s ‘MacBeth’ and ‘The Tempest’

Prime Stock Theatre also tours smaller shows through various city parks

As well, two free “pocked-sized” Bard in a Box productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Comedy of Errors will tour various parks in the city from July 1 to Aug. 11.

Schedules will be posted at www.primestocktheatre.com.

The Scottish play-that-must-not-be-named — or risk bad luck, according to theatrical lore — is one of Shakespeare’s most performed plays. Prime Stock Theatre’s artistic director, Thomas Usher, said Macbeth continually ranks near the top in audience requests.

And why wouldn’t it?

Familiar to generations of students who have studied the Elizabethan tragedy as part of their English curriculum, Macbeth also has all the elements for a spine-chilling story — including a brush with the supernatural.

It opens with Scottish general Macbeth receiving a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day, he will be king of Scotland.

Driven by his ambition and his wife’s urging, Macbeth murders King Duncan and seizes the Scottish throne. But his conscience is plagued by guilt — especially as more murders must be committed to cement his power.

The bloodbath that ensues pushes Macbeth and Lady Macbeth over the precipice of madness and death.

While Shakespeare’s play was first performed in 1606, Prime Stock Theatre will be establishing an earlier setting for the tragedy that’s supposed to take place in the 11th century.

Dealing with human traits such as ruthlessness and ambition and the psychic toll these can take, make Macbeth’s themes current, said Usher.

“Macbeth is haunted by the choices he makes.”

Victoria Wells-Smith, a former Prime Stock player, is flying in from Toronto to direct the play.

The title role is performed by former Red Deer College student Layne Zazalak — while Usher will play McDuff.

After all the gloom of Macbeth, The Tempest will seem positively breezy — although it deals with both tragic and comic themes.

It starts with a turbulent storm at sea that causes some nobles to wash up on a remote island. They discover the sorcerer Prospero, his daughter Miranda, and his two servants — the “monster” Caliban, and Ariel, an airy spirit.

These colourful characters have helped audiences explore themes of magic, betrayal, revenge and family for more than four centuries.

This Bard on Bower’s production will be directed by Benjamin Blyth. The English native is a founder of The Malachites‚ a company that strives to reconnect with the Elizabethan spirit of Shakespeare’s plays, while emphasizing their modern qualities.

For the first time this summer, Bard on Bower will partner with staff at Cronquist House, who will be making picnic meals for any audience members who pre-order them.

Usher also plans to book musicians to provide additional entertainment on the outdoor stage at Bower Ponds on various dates.

Whether you catch the two full-scale outdoor plays at Bower Ponds, or one of the 45-minute Bard in a Box productions touring various city parks, Usher said Prime Stock theatre will be glad to add some cultural seasoning to your summer.

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