Tour of Duty: ASF's Lady Macbeth and Company Bring Shakespeare's Soldiers to Life for the U.S. Military

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THURSDAY, SEPT. 9, 2004

We did a final tech/dress tonight for an invited audience at Maxwell Air Force Base here in Montgomery, Ala. I must say it was thrilling to play for a military audience. Macbeth seems to speak directly to them and their world. I knew this as we were preparing it, but I didn't realize how palpable it was until I was saying those lines directly to them: "What not put upon his spongy officers," "You do unbend your noble strength." It is such a military play: full of images of blood, battle, death and so much of what these men and women are facing directly with the war in Iraq. The politics of the piece rang very real as well, and it is hard for me not to think about how we as a human race continue to make the same mistakes throughout history. I do on some level want to make this a political statement, but know that my job is simply to play the play and let the audience interpret.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

FRIDAY, SEPT. 10

Afternoon rehearsal for about two hours, to correct some technical things but mostly I think for my husband Kent Thompson to have time to say goodbye to directing the piece. With only two-and-a-half weeks of rehearsal, we have had to work fast to get all the new folks up and running, including Remi Sandri, our Macbeth.

In the afternoon, there was a press conference with folks from the National Endowment for the Arts and a reception at ASF before patrons were bused over to the base for the opening night performance. Apparently, the NEA personnel were impressed with what they saw; I think they thought they were coming to see the local yokels do a little Shakespeare skit. They certainly got their eyes opened! We all seemed to free up and sail through the evening and got a standing ovation.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 11

7 p.m. show at Maxwell. The audience seemed a little more restless to me, but Mark Leslie, our stage manager, thought it was simply that they're not used to attending theatre and think of it like a movie. At least the story is coming through clearly. I can always tell if we have them when I do my sleepwalking scene. If you can hear a pin drop, they are with us. So far, so good.

MONDAY, SEPT. 13

The morning was marred by my sadness in leaving my son Alex at school, knowing that I will miss him so much over the next seven weeks.

We piled onto the bus and headed across Georgia. At one stop we pulled into a filling station and Philip Pleasants, who plays the roles of the Porter and Siward, went for a cup of coffee. The patrons asked what the bus was all about, and Philip said we were from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Their response was, "What's that?" Then he said we were headed to the Kings Bay Sub Base to perform Macbeth, and their response was, "What's that?" Paul Hebron, who plays King Duncan, later joked to Philip that at this point he should have just told them we were a bunch of communist homosexuals.

TUESDAY, SEPT. 14

This morning Remi and myself, along with Chris Mixon (Ross), Rodney Clark (Caithness/captain/murderer) and Howard Overshown (Macduff), visited Camden County High School to do outreach with Macbeth. When we got there, the classes we met with had neither read the play nor were going to be able to see it. There had been a lottery for tickets and they hadn't won. We all wondered what we were doing there. As it turned out, Remi and I had a great group of kids who got into the scenes we did. The others didn't have as much luck.

WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 15

From Mark Leslie:

  9:30 a.m. student show. We are on the short set in a small gymnasium.
  They are only placing seating for 200. We will not be using
  microphones and you should take note to be extra articulate. If you
  play scenes softly no one will hear you. But LOUDER and SLOWER in this
  case does not mean clearer, it just means more boomy. Dare I say, "Use
  your tongues. …