When Harland Meltzer was contemplating what Colonial Theatre should produce for this year's Westerly Shakespeare in the Park, he realized that "Macbeth" - a tale of blind ambition - seemed an especially fitting choice.
"I was just looking at the political tenor of the world and particularly our country," says Meltzer, Colonial's producing artistic director. "It seemed an apt thing to do at the time, particularly when we are in the middle of a succession war here in the United States, really. ... This election isn't just an election, (it's more, because of ) the way people are splitting up in the country."
Four of the last six shows the Colonial has done for Shakespeare in the Park have been comedies, so Meltzer felt, too, that it was a time for a change-up.
"This just seemed like a really good, fun, timely thing to do," he says.
Another fun aspect: This "Macbeth" features more combat that the Colonial productions generally have. Phil Leips has put together complicated battles, with 10 to 12 people fighting at the same time.
Since it's a smaller cast - about 16 people - some of the females get to resurface in a second role as fighters. The actress playing Lady Macbeth, in fact, returns near the end of the production in the guise of a combatant.
Emily Trask, a graduate of Yale's MFA program, portrays Lady Macbeth; she has also performed at Yale Rep and Milwaukee Rep.
Playing Macbeth is Mark Corkins, whose previous credits include starring roles at Utah Shakespeare Festival and as a company member of Milwaukee Rep and The Rep at the University of Delaware.
Familiar faces to Colonial audiences are returning, too, with Paul Romero, Marion Markham, Enrique Bravo and Ed Franklin among them.
This production is set in the period and location that Shakespeare intended, although Meltzer admitted he had thought about changing the story's time and place.
"I had a lot of ideas, but I'd seen or heard of a bunch of 'Macbeths' in the last couple of years all in different settings. I thought, 'Ah, maybe the most innovative thing to do now is put it back in Scotland in the 11th century,'" he says.
"All these (changes) I thought about, when I would work them through in my head, there were nice, clever things about them, but there wasn't anything I felt was really, really going to open up some part of the play to the audience that I wasn't going to get to with the more traditional setting."
"Macbeth," of course, is one of the "major name" Shakespeare plays, as Meltzer says. Colonial organizers hope that, in a year when fundraising has been especially challenging (many foundations and businesses that used to give to the arts, for example, are focusing instead on social services), this famous title might bring in bigger audiences - and, perhaps, more donations.
It usually costs the Colonial around $150,000 to stage a Shakespeare show. This year should run a little less, closer to $125,000. Donations have tended to cover 20 percent of the production's budget. Admission to "Macbeth" is free, but the Colonial is suggesting that individuals make a $10 donation.
?Macbeth," Wilcox Park, downtown Westerly; runs through July 29; Colonial Theatre's 21st season performing Shakespeare in the Park; 8 p.m. Tues.-Sun.; free, $10 donation requested; thecolonialtheater.org/