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latinx theatre, latinx plays, latinx Shakespeares, mexican shakespeare, chicano shakespeare, bilingual theatre

Macbeth: A Modern Mestizo Story Set In Central America

Directed by: David Richard Jones

for La Compañía de Teatro de Albuquerque

Albuquerque, NM (1985)

 

 

In September 2014, when I was a graduate student, I reached out to David Richard Jones to inquire about this production from nearly thirty years earlier. He graciously responded to my questions. When I contacted him again in 2022, he granted me permission to include the prose he sent me years earlier. Each paragraph is a response to a question I had posed; I have not attempted to reconfigure what is included below. Any abrupt change in topic is due to my jumping all over in questions, not Mr. Jones’ writing. I am indebted to him for granting this reflection, as it is an important part of theatre history.

 

Macbeth: A Modern Mestizo Story Set In Central America

 

with Carla Della Gatta and David Richard Jones, September 2014

 

CD: What was the length of the run? 

 

DRJ: The production played a four-show run over a single weekend in a local theatre that seated 650.

 

CD: Was the setting in a specific country in Central America?  Why or why not?

 

DRJ: This Macbeth was set in Central America during the peak of the wars in Nicaragua, Guatemala, etc.  It was also at the peak time of Miami Vice, and the costuming of the Scottish nobles relied heavily on smart Caribbean couture of the time.  Lady Macbeth was a white trophy wife.  Duncan was a corpulent patrón.  Swords were replaced by knives and automatic rifles.  The last act was played in fatigues.  At the finale, Macbeth’s head came back in a blood-stained burlap bag.  And the witches were spirits of a Mayan cast that was intentionally non-specific. 

 

The politics of the time made the political machinations of the play very resonant.  The succession of oligarchs, political hustlers, and guerrillas flowed smoothly from the text and the period. 

 

CD: Did ethnicity play into casting? Were there actors in rep or was there a casting call?

 

DRJ: Company members were almost entirely Hispanic in surname and background, so the cast was Latino with the exception of the Anglo Equity actress who played Lady Macbeth.

 

CD: How did bilingualism or language function in the play and why?

 

DRJ: The production was entirely in Shakespearean English with a minimal amount of editing.  There was no attempt to bilingualize or translate the text, and the production had no intention to raise language as a production issue.  Certain characters “latinized” their pronunciation in terms that made sense of social type or class.   This was done in the spirit of many Shakespeare shows that use Elizabethan speech in places and times that radically recontextualize the stories and characters—i.e. the basic modern style of Shakespearean production. 

 

CD: Did the theater often perform Shakespeare?

 

DRJ: Over the fifteen or more years of its life, La Compañía did many productions entirely in Spanish, many entirely in English, some in the regional mezcla, and a modest amount in intentionally bilingual versions.  It did no other Shakespeare or Shakespeare-adaptation until Ramón Flores’s Merchant of Santa Fe in the 1990s.

 

CD: Did the company advertise the show in Spanish?

 

DRJ: La Compañía always advertised in Spanish-language media in Albuquerque and did so for this production.

 

CD: What is your history with the theater? 

 

DRJ: I had seen the very first productions of La Compañía in 1977, when I was Artistic Director of a local theatre and invited them to bring in their production of Bodas de sangre.  My bilingual Anglo wife acted in many of their shows, and I was friends with the managers and actors of the company.  My La Compañía directing experience included Spanish-language productions of La vida es sueño and Isaac Chocrón’s OK.  In 1994, I directed Nuestro Pueblo (Our Town) for Compañía Nacional de Teatro in Caracas (Teatro Nacional).

 

In June 2014, I directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of “Shakespeare in the Plaza,” a coproduction of The Vortex Theatre and the City of Albuquerque.  The cast was 55-45% Anglo-Hispanic, and this production was recast into mid-19th century New Mexico, where the characterizations reflected the state’s typical mixture of Anglo, Chicano, and Native populations.

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