By the pricking of my thumbs, something tipsy this way comes.
That something is Madison Shakespeare Company’s production of Sloshed Shakespeare: Macbeth, the latest entry into the “Drunken Shakespeare” phenomenon that has been seeping into theater companies everywhere.
The thesis is simple. One or more of the actors in any of the Bard’s better-known plays drinks copious amounts of alcohol before a performance. Then the drunken actors take the stage to tell the tale with their sober players.
Given the conditions of at least some of the performers, it’s anyone’s guess how that tale will turn out.
The unpredictability and the resulting humor that characterize the performances is the whole point of the exercise, says MSC executive director Jason Compton, who is producing the show.
“I learned about the global ‘drunk Shakespeare’ craze this winter at HopCat (a brewpub in downtown Madison) after one of our King Richard the Second performances,” says Compton, who works as a freelance business writer when not involved with theater. “My first reaction was, ‘That sounds like a terrible idea.’ Then I thought about it for a minute, and realized it was an amazing idea, or at least a risk worth taking.”
Madison Shakespeare Company will take that risk twice. The first show is July 1 at 6 p.m. at the outdoor Capital Brewery Beer Garden in Middleton. A second performance is 8 p.m. July 7 at the High Noon Saloon in Madison.
Compton anticipates that his cast, sober and not, should receive a warm welcome.
“People like to see actors take risks,” Compton says. “One or more of the actors will be in no condition to perform, but they will perform anyway.”
As a first “drunk” production, Macbeth was an easy choice for the troupe, which performed a regular version of the show in 2016.
Four of this year’s cast members appeared in last year’s production. In addition to Compton playing Macbeth, veterans include Sarah Zumdahl Johnson as Lady Macbeth, Tia Tanzer as Malcolm and Bryan Metrish as Lady Macduff (and Banquo).
Joining the cast are Joshua Woolfolk as Macduff and Marie Freese as King Duncan.
Francisco Torres will direct, as he did last year.
“Francisco tells me that everyone will take a shot of Scotch before the show, with one actor chosen to load up on whatever the drink of choice is,” he explains. “It’s not exactly clear whether the designated drinker will get to choose his or her own poison, but Capital Brewery has offered to provide plenty of pre-show beer to the cast.”
In addition, at some point during the play, audience members will be able to vote on which additional actor will get liquored up. Given that the performances are either in a brewery or bar, it’s a pretty good chance audience members will be participating in the proceedings in other ways as well.
Despite the fact that the goal is to push performers beyond Wisconsin’s legal intoxication limit of 0.08 percent blood alcohol content, the troupe plans to take good care of its actors.
“We’re not out to put anyone in the hospital and the drunk actors certainly will not be allowed to drive, but if we say we’re going to do this, then we’re going to do it,” Compton says.
As will be the case with Sloshed Shakespeare, “most drunken productions use a reduced cast and an adjusted script, and Macbeth adapts very well to this approach,” Compton notes. “I don’t think something like a drunk Henry VI, Part 2 would work very well, but if this becomes a huge success, we might go in a completely opposite direction.”
Madison Shakespeare Company’s production of Sloshed Shakespeare: Macbeth is July 1 at 6 p.m. at the outdoor Capital Brewery Beer Garden, 7734 Terrace Ave., Middleton. A second performance is 8 p.m. July 7 at the High Noon Saloon, 701 E. Washington Ave., Madison. For more, including reservations, go to madisonshakespeare.org/drunk-macbeth. A $10 contribution is suggested.
On the calendar for Shakespeare Co.
Madison Shakespeare Company grew out of the Stoughton-based Open Spaces Theatre Company, with its first production in 2012.
Earlier in June, the troupe staged an outdoor production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It at the Edgewood College Amphitheatre.
Coming up, the troupe holds staged readings of non-Shakespearean works at the Arts + Literature Laboratory, 2021 Winnebago St., Madison. July 20, the actors read from Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Aug. 17 from Thomas Heywood’s Edward IV.
Both readings take place at 7 p.m.
In February 2018, the company performs the Bard’s Henry IV at the Bartell Theatre, 113 E. Mifflin St., Madison.
Bard & Bourbon brews up 'Twelfth Night (drunk)'
Bard & Bourbon Theatre Company, Milwaukee’s drunken Shakespeare troupe, will stage Twelfth Night (drunk) Aug. 31–Sept. 9 at the Tenth Street Theatre, home to In Tandem Theatre, 628 N. 10th St., Milwaukee.
Auditions closed June 26. Drinking and nondrinking roles were available, and auditioning actors were asked to prepare “a one-minute classical monologue of a gender different than the one you identify as and a 30-second a cappella song.”
For more, visit bardandbourbon.com.