University Players opens this season with a production of Mac Beth by Erica Schmidt, a unique reimagining of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy. Leading the troupe in this production is Dian Marie Bridge, artistic director of the Black Theatre Workshop in Montreal, Canada’s longest-running Black stage company.
In its 53rd season, Black Theatre Workshop produces shows for general audiences, offers theatre for young audiences, runs national mentor-apprentice training program, and has just announced a new playwrights’ festival called Club Zed. Bridge has been the associate artistic director at Luminato Festival Toronto, and artist-in-residence at Necessary Angel theatre company. She also worked for four seasons at the Stratford Festival, both as an artist and producer.
David Court, director of the School of Dramatic Art, expressed excitement about her appointment.
“We are thrilled to have Dian join us as the first director in our 65th season,” he said. “Her work as a theatre artist is inspiring, and we are grateful for her work with our students on this production.”
Mac Beth is set in a desolate urban area, complete with decaying furniture and abandoned shopping carts. Macbeth and the witches along with the full cast of characters come alive in the performance of several teenagers who meet to perform the play in a “club” of sorts. The text is all Shakespeare’s, but the story delivers a visceral blow when performed by young people in a very familiar current setting.
“I’m excited to work with these students,” says Bridge. “Erica Schmidt’s Mac Beth is a rich adaptation and explores some very dark and poignant themes. In tackling this production, care for the students’ mental and spiritual health has been paramount, to allow them the fullest opportunity to play, explore and fill these characters, both as the students who are part of the Dungeons and Dragon-esque ‘Mac Beth Club,’ and as the characters in the original play.”
She notes that both intimacy and fight direction were integral to this process.
“In order to get the realistic fight scenes to work, but also keep the artists safe on stage, both their physical and mental well-being were centred in this process,” Bridge says.
Mac Beth opens Sept. 22 with a 7:30 p.m. performance at Essex Hall Theatre. The show runs approximately 1 hour and 25 minutes. Recommended for ages 14+, some mature content, violence, and gore.
Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at www.universityplayers.com. Regular price tickets start at $20.