In the Elizabethan era, the consciousness of sickness and death during the Black Plague caused shutdowns and quarantine — and this is keenly (but not overtly) referenced in Shakespeare’s plays. He was working in London when the bubonic plague surfaced in 1592 - it closed the theatres and again in 1603, two years before he wrote Macbeth, London experienced mass death of over 30,000 - a large percentage of people living close together in the city of only 250,000. Yet Shakespeare never left London during these plagues. He stayed to create art - he was courageous - many playwrights did not make the same decision. He knew his responsibility to his moment. Shakespeare was a healing force in his society during the most challenging times.
Shakespeare also experienced cultural division - the struggle between religious and political factions was epic and caused civil and political strife that cost many lives and deep societal wounds. Macbeth is a play that grapples with both plague and power structures in a way that I have found compelling and commensurate with our extraordinary moment in American history. And I asked the question: What if we could produce and stage the play during this moment of National reconciliation with Covid-19 and racial justice? In a small southern town that has the most incredibly diverse population of students I have ever experienced in my life and a university that has very effective safety measures in place and has decided to bet on the compliance of students to stay healthy - that allows us to be together and create art. What if we took lemons and made lemonade? What if we used this extraordinary moment to ask questions and learn more about ourselves through the lens of the greatest playwright in the world - using his greatest tragedy - for this moment - Macbeth.