Mission Theatre readies character-driven Macbeth

After Australian director Penelope Parsons-Lord directed A Midsummer Night's Dream last year for Mission Theatre Company, she knew she wanted to come back the Twin Cities.

"It's a great theater scene and great people," she says.

Getting used to the different terminology, however, has taken a bit longer. "We're having load in today. In Australia, we call it bump in," she says. "There are those little cultural moments when I have to think about what to call things."

Parsons-Lord got involved with Mission and Minneapolis a few years back. "I went to university in Melbourne, and I had a good friend who happened to be from Minneapolis. In 2009, I came over here and spent a couple of months here. I made friends with the people who would become Mission," she says.

Schedules lined up in 2013, which brought Parsons-Lord to town. She found plenty of similarities between Melbourne and Minneapolis, which helped to further draw her into the community.

Parsons-Lord uses a distinct method to present Shakespeare. "It's a very, very different approach to Shakespeare than people use in general. I'm very, very precise about the text, to make the pronouns very clear. There is a lot of sitting down, and having the actors try
it this way or that way. It's a very precise technique," she says.

What it produces are shows that are clear to understand and have a strong impact on the audience.

"Classical actors can get caught in their heads, and the show becomes stilted and still. They are just moving around in a born blocking way because they are so concerned about their language," she says.

For Macbeth, "the heart of the play is relationships. There are the really intense relationships they have. For Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, I don't see it as cold. I see it as strong. The tragedy is how he pulls away from her with each murder," Parsons-Lord says.

The actors also need to play each moment as that moment. "We get caught up because we know the text. We know that Macbeth is going to die at the end. It's not a tragedy at the beginning. They don't know where their choices are leading them. Macbeth could have done some amazing things for the country. He could have been a good king if he had stopped murdering people," Parsons-Lord says.

The production is branching out to the arts beyond theater. Joe Gamble of Enemy Planes has scored the show, while painter Christopher Gorecki has crafted an exhibit of work inspired by the production.

Parsons-Lord and Mission are also presenting Violent Delights in conjunction with Macbeth. The piece is one that Parsons-Lord has worked on for several years. In it, a cast of eight actors move through various Shakespeare plays, highlighting some the gloriously violent moments along the way.

The director has been in town since February (arriving with one of the many cold snaps), and will leave after the show is running (just in time for the end of the Australian autumn). Her mind is already looking to the future. "We are already talking about getting back for next year. I really enjoy working with Mission, and I would love to come back and keep putting on really fun Shakespeare," she says.


Previews Thursday, opens Friday-May 24
Minneapolis Theatre Garage

711 W. Franklin St., Minneapolis, MN

$20-40 (sliding scale)

Violent Delights
May 17-23
Throughout the Twin Cities. Check website for locations.

For tickets and more information, call 612.234.7168 or visit online.