LUCY: Hi! And welcome to Tradition and Iconoclasm in Theatre, or, Remaking European Classics in the Image of the American Millennial. I’m Lucy Cashion. I’m a theatre director, writer, and choreographer.
JOEY: And I’m Joe Taylor. I’m a composer, lyricist, and actor. I’m also a video artist.
And we create and perform very contemporary adaptations of very traditional works of theatre with our performing arts company, Equally Represented Arts, or ERA. The majority of our work consists of adaptations of old European classics into avant-garde experiments for mid-western American audiences. Our company ERA is one of two theatre companies performing experimental work in St. Louis, Missouri. The theatre in St. Louis is generally shockingly traditional in the worst sense - it’s conventional, common, and routine. Despite this, or maybe because of this, our work has a bit of a cult following. St. Louis is demographically a contemporary and forward-thinking city, though it sits deeply within this section of the country that vehemently opposes all kinds of change and progress. So we feel the liveliness of tradition and contemporaneity in many ways.
LUCY: Our process of adapting a work consists of: 1) examine the dramaturgy, structure, and history of a pre-existing work; 2) discover our intuitive connections to that work and 3) recreate it for contemporary audiences within the context of our intellectual and emotional analyses. We’re going to look at four works we’ve adapted today, and then take questions, so let’s start with Trash Macbeth.
JOEY: We’re going to examine each of these adaptations through a single scene. So here is Act 3, scene 4 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
You may recognize it - it is the famous dinner party where the ghost of Banquo appears. When we thought about Macbeth the original, we thought dramaturgically, it’s a tragedy. It’s also Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy. It’s very linear compared to his other work; it’s quick and dirty. There’s also this mythic woman, Lady Macbeth, whose part should be way better than it actually is, but of course, she was played by a boy during Shakespeare’s time, a younger actor who couldn’t handle the monologues Macbeth has.
LUCY: Intuitively, and it’s mostly because of this scene, Lady Macbeth reminds me of my grandmother. Like many American millennials, my grandmother was a quintessential 1950s housewife. My grandmother is a lovely woman, but if you ruined her dinner party, I don’t think she could ever forgive you. And that’s what Macbeth does in Act 3, scene 4. My grandmother cared about social appearances more than anything because of the influence of a book from her mother’s generation: Etiquette by Emily Post, which my grandmother tried very hard to teach me and then my hippy mother tried very hard to unteach me.
What’s important to note is how the 1950s in the United States was basically the opposite of the 1950s in Europe. In the US it was like, look at all this stuff we have and how great things are. The 1950s for us was the birth of American consumerism and with it a huge surge in garbage: garbage you could waste your money on and then of course throw away. So we asked ourselves, ‘when does moral filth become tangible waste?’ And from this question our Trash Macbeth was born. Emily Post is a character in the play and her famous book, Etiquette is her script. As Mr. and Lady Macbeth begin to lose their minds, mid-century American advertisements invade their speech. Everything in the production was made from repurposed materials.
And now we will show you our version of the Macbeth’s bungled dinner party, from Trash Macbeth. The adapted script for this scene is subtitled in the video, or you can find this excerpt on our website.