By Scott Meeker
Globe Staff Writer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
The first Missouri Shakespeare Festival kicked off Thursday with a production of "Macbeth" that will continue through Sunday in the Bud Walton Theatre at Missouri Southern State University.
The play will be staged at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Jim Lile, head of the university's theater department, said that the production is a first step in what he hopes will become a larger repertory project.
"It's kind of a little festival right now, since it's just the one play," Lile said. "It's a seed to start something growing. We're putting a toe in the water to see if the community will support it and if so, we're off and running. I'd like to have a couple of shows each summer."
William Shakespeare's tale of a power-hungry Scottish lord is directed by Tim Klein, an assistant professor at Missouri Southern.
"('Macbeth') is something that I've wanted to direct for about 10 years now and haven't had the opportunity," said Klein. "It's one of my favorite plays. However, it's extremely hard to do because you need to have giant battle scenes, you need the costumes, a fight choreographer and enough people."
Staging the play in the summer solved those problems, he said, because school was out. The cast that was assembled includes students and alumni as well as current and retired faculty members.
The mix of students and their instructors has provided something different from the normal classroom experience.
"It's been fun because we're colleagues instead of professors," Klein said. "We're not grading them or judging them."
The faculty members featured in the cast include Lile and Klein, who said that directing a show that he also appears in has presented something of a challenge.
"I didn't realize how hard it would be," he said. "It means that I have to watch a scene, then throw on a cape and run out do a scene, got back to watch, then grab a sword and jump back in."
The script, he said, has been cut down to reduce redundancies in the story, leaving a production that is "streamlined, fast and almost cinematic," but by no means dumbed down.
Because the audiences in Shakespeare's day tended to drink during productions, often characters would restate an essential plot element several times to make sure it got through.
Should the production prove successful, Lile said he would like to see the festival feature a comedy and a tragedy each summer. For those who might feel a bit intimidated by the material, he said there is little reason worry.
"It's important to remember that Shakespeare was not writing for an elite audience to begin with," he said. "Even if you don't get the meaning of every single word, the context of the scene will help you understand it ... his stories, characters and wonderful language are a delight to experience live."
Lile said that "Macbeth" is the perfect selection to launch the festival.
"It's a story of political intrigue, out of control ambitions, witches and swordfights," he said. "Not to get too pedantic about it, but it's the kind of play with issues that continue to be relevant," he said. "It's always a pleasure to bring it to a new audience."
Want to go?
Tickets to the production of "Macbeth" are $10 and can be purchased in Room 237 of the Taylor Performing Arts Center, or online at www.mssu.edu. Details: 625-3190.