Thursday, February 28, 2008

Voodoo Macbeth!

A quick addendum to my post on Macbeth just because I think it is so very cool: a clip of the infamous "Voodoo" Macbeth, directed by a 20-year-old Orson Welles for the Federal Theater Project. OK, the acting isn't terrific, but it is amazing to be able to see a bit of this legendary production. (Thanks to About Last Night for the link.)

John Houseman, in his book Entertainers and the Entertained, recalls "the selfless fervor that kept us going, night after night, through rehearsals of the Negro Macbeth, in the freezing, barren Harlem winter of 1935-36. There is no theatrical aphrodisiac more potent or satisfying than extreme collective penury." During the rehearsal process, many Harlemites "suspected [the play] of being a deliberate and cruel hoax calculated to ridicule the Negro in the eyes of the white world" but, according to Houseman, opening night was a "triumphal consecration."

People still talk about this production (the novel I'm currently reading, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, even alludes to it) so I am thrilled that a piece of it was preserved for us YouTube viewers of the future!

1 comment:

dlh said...

There's a forthcoming collection of essays called "Weyward Macbeth" that examines Welles's production among many "non-traditional" versions of "Macbeth" in the United States --