Quinn Mattfeld Talks about Macbeth
When you hear Quinn Mattfeld’s name, you might think of an incredibly gifted actor who has played many roles here at the Festival, including Blackstache in the 2012 production of Peter and the Starcatcher, Robert in last fall’s Boeing Boeing or Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility last summer. And you’d be right. And Quinn is much more. He’s taught Shakespeare for 4 years at Pacific Conservatory Theatre’s PCPA and he’s directed there as well as here in the New American Playwright’s Project.
So it’s no surprise that he’s directing this year’s tour production of Macbeth. Quinn and the rest of the company arrived in Cedar City on December 28 (brrrr – temps in single digits and snow on the ground) and started rehearsals immediately in preparation for the tour, which begins on January 21. We recently talked with Quinn about his vision for Macbeth in this 75-minute production.
Tell us about your familiarity with Macbeth…
I’ve appeared in it twice. First, I was a senior in college – I played Macbeth. At the age of 21, I had no business playing Macbeth and it was probably the worst ever. Then in 2010, I played Malcolm here at the Festival.
For the last 4 years, I’ve taught Shakespeare at PCPA and used this play as a cornerstone. It’s such a fantastic play. So I know most of it by heart.
What’s your vision or concept for this production?
The backdrop is birch trees – stark, black and white. There are two islands that move. The backdrop is a curtain. It’s a forest in winter and a moral wilderness. People say this play is about ambition. But the word “ambition” is only used twice. I think it’s about the consequences of taking action – the before and after. It’s a moral wilderness. Everyone has something happen - actions create consequences. For example: Macduff goes to England because he wants to save Scotland. And his family dies as a result. He went with good intentions but his family died.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth go all in to get what they want - they kill the king but at the cost of her sanity and for Macbeth - his soul. It’s like Into the Woods – I’m using Into the Woods as a way of understanding the before and after. Macbeth has a number of moments to make new decisions – he keeps getting the opportunity to go back, but he doesn’t.
How do you make this play relevant for the students?
I think the way to make it relevant is we do it well. I feel like I could understand the most complexity in my life when I was in high school. This play happens in a moral wilderness and there is no better place to understand that than high school. If we just are worthy of the story it will be relevant. Every single scene has something to watch.
There is plenty of spectacle: fight scenes and ghosts that come back. There’s a bunch of neat imagination engaging things that I think are spectacular and they work in a theatric way instead of a cinematic way.
It feels like a cycle. At the beginning of the show, Macbeth, who is the hero of the country, kills the traitor of the country. The end of the play, Macbeth has become the traitor and is killed by Macduff who has become the hero of the country.
The one thing I’m trying to highlight in the show is that it all turns on decisions. We don’t realize the consequences til after. Macbeth is able to look back. In his “tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow” speech the first thing he says about his wife “she should have died hereafter…” it’s the first time that he’s thinking in “should and would”. It’s like he’s apologizing to his wife for not telling her “no”, for not stepping back and saying “we’re not doing this”. It’s the everyday decisions that lead to consequences you can’t see til it happens.
The Tour will have a public performance in Cedar City on January 21 at 7:30pm. Tickets are only $5 and can be purchased by calling the ticket office at 800-PLAYTIX. The company then departs, traveling through five states until April. You can see the entire schedule at http://www.bard.org/education/tour.html