Smile Politely

Macbeth to open at Uniplace Church

“All hail, Macbeth.”

Well, maybe if you don’t want to be brutally murdered. What You Will’s adaptation of Macbeth tells the tale of an ambitious power couple (the Macbeths), their bloody ascent to power, and their even bloodier descent into madness. Shakespeare’s play is a tale of insanity, identity, intrigue, and many other intelligent sounding ‘I’ words. (Idiosyncracies? Sure. Impotence? Maybe.) Actor-turned-director Orion Lovell decided to focus on the identity aspect, although the adaptation does not lack in the other aforementioned themes.

Since Macbeth is one of my personal favorite Shakespeare plays, I was excited to have the opportunity to watch a rehearsal and ask the director a few questions.


Smile Politely: What were the most important innovations you added to the original?

Orion Lovell: Well, we build this as an adaption and not just William Shakespeare’s Whatever. It’s a What You Will adaptation of Macbeth. We made a lot of changes, but I’ll hit the big three. First, we have a female McDuff. I wanted to do that because, when I read Macbeth, I see it very much as a play about identity—more importantly the identity that other people project onto you. To expand on that theme, I made McDuff a woman because she gets this projected super hypermasculine soldier persona: “Must feel it as a man!”.

SP: I noticed you did something similar with Duncan.

Orion: Yes, Duncan was cast as a woman, and she plays McDuff’s son as well. Most Shakespeare plays have like thirty characters and you care about five. I wanted to make every character as complex as possible. Keeping the idea of identity in mind, I wanted to see a Duncan that struggled with being regal and having a heart. I felt that Maggie Wolfe, who plays Duncan, could really pull off being regal and having the heart of a child. Simultaneously, I combined the Porter parts with Malcolm’s parts because I wanted to have a Malcolm that struggles with wanting to live life and having to be a king. Finally, the witches. In early modern plays, all the witches are terrible demon-folk. In keeping with the theme of identity, I wanted to see a troop of witches with added complexity. They start the play off with this invocation that they want to heal the world, and they do so by launching this campaign to get the right person as royalty.

SP: Why Macbeth? What drew you in, or does What you Will have a set schedule of plays?

Orion: Well, we can’t do shows too soon one after the other. I’ve been waiting to do Macbeth for a couple of years now because the last time we did it was two years ago, and we have a two-year waiting period. I have three favorite Shakespeare shows: I most want to act in Hamlet, I like King Lear as a reading text, and Macbeth is my favorite in terms of the themes and imagery. It has the intrigue, the witches, and everything. It’s the play I thought would be the most fun to direct.

SP: I’ve noticed that, in the case of What You Will, you all seem to be close. What are some of the difficulties in directing, especially considering your personal relationships with cast members?

Orion: Yeah, we are a bunch of friends; we hang out together all the time. We have a really strong rapport. Especially for this show, it was really important for me to have a cast that I could trust a lot. As a result, they’re all my friends. Honestly, the hardest thing to do is scheduling everyone around their already hectic schedules.


The company’s hard work and rapport showed in the rehearsal. While the actors performed, both director and assistant director took copious notes to further perfect an already impressive performance. The tragic elements of the play are balanced by some lively comedy; in some scenes my throat would clench in sadness only to be opened with a laugh in the next. With exciting, well-choreographed fight sequences, a witches scene that gave me the chills, and a body count that would do Seneca proud, I highly recommend seeing What You Will’s adaptation of Macbeth on either Friday, April 10th, or Saturday the 11th. Each show starts 7:30 p.m. at University Place Christian Church on East Stoughton (Champaign). And like the company’s last show, admission is only $7. Visit their Facebook page for more information on the show and the company.

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