GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — The Utah Shakespeare Festival will return to Shrine of the Ages, this time bringing a tale of witches, greed and corruption as Macbeth wrestles with his own relevance. The group will put on a public performance at 7 p.m. March 4. The performance is free and open to the public.
This will be the fourth performance by the Utah Shakespeare Festival at Grand Canyon, and the group also performs for Grand Canyon School, offering workshops and activities after the performance. The event is sponsored by the Grand Canyon Community Library.
William Ascarza, deputy director of the Flagstaff-Coconino County Public Library system, said the annual winter performance was a great way to engage residents during a season when activities in the community are few and far between.
“(The performance) is something people appreciate because it’s still winter and they enjoy having something to do,” he said. “They’re engaged and motivated, it’s something they get a lot out of, and it’s our way (the library) of giving back to the community.”
Grand Canyon Librarian Mindy Karlsberger, who has been involved with the performances since they began in 2016, agreed.
“The kids love it,” she said. “You might think Shakespeare would be over their heads, but it really isn’t.”
Karlsberger said the actors engage the kids with activities after the performance, such as how to perform a staged sword fight.
“I can’t stress enough the enthusiasm of the actors … they are so into it,” she said.
Karlsberger said having something cultural like a live Shakespeare performance is eye-opening for a community that centers on decidedly more rugged activities such as hiking, biking and other outdoor pursuits.
Michael Bahr, the festival’s education director for 20 years is directing this year’s touring production.
“For many of our audiences this will be the first time they have seen a professional Shakespeare production,” Bahr said. “This program seeks to entertain, enrich, and educate with innovative and accessible performances to rural and urban schools and communities, many of which would not have this opportunity otherwise.”
The tour will be performing nearly 60 shows for over 120 schools and 25,000 students across the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and Utah. The cast and crew will be on the road for thirteen weeks from January through April to bring this classic tragedy to schools, community centers and correctional facilities. Students will have the chance to watch the show and then participate in a post-show discussion and workshops in stage combat, performing Shakespeare’s text, technical theater and developing character through improvisation.
One of Shakespeare’s shortest tragedies, Macbeth wastes no time in portraying to the audience the perils of unchecked political ambition. Manipulated by the prophecy of three witches, Scottish general Macbeth becomes obsessed with the notion that he will one day be king, going so far as to murder the rightful king, setting off a descent into mental illness and corruption for both he and his wife.