Published Date Written by Noelle Barrett
“Have you ever wished you could actually understand Shakespeare? Challenge accepted.”
It’s a tagline Douglas Grove, an English teacher at Lower Dauphin High School, has placed on a take of Shakespeare you may not have seen before. CSI? Clocks? They weren’t around during that time period, but in Grove’s rendition of “Macbeth,’’ there are quite a few pop culture references floating around.
It started with a script that Grove wrote as part of his master’s degree thesis at Penn State Harrisburg. Now students at Lower Dauphin have brought it to life for their fall play.
The play has a lot of the same elements as the original, but the script is translated using modern vocabulary and wording. The characters will also be dressed in a modern fashion.
Part of the reason for this translation is that Grove wanted to portray Shakespeare in a way that wouldn’t intimidate the audience.
Grove said he has noticed people find it hard to follow exactly what the characters are saying, during traditional performances of Shakespeare.
“I thought if we get rid of that barrier, then maybe (everyone) can appreciate ‘Macbeth,’ ” said Grove. “That was the whole point, really – to make it accessibe. The plot line also remains the same. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth still plot to kill the king, and their lives spiral out of control."
“Macbeth is ambitious, and that’s his fatal flaw,” said Matthew Peck, a senior who plays Macbeth.
Mary Kate Hoag, a junior at Lower Dauphin, describes her character in one word – evil.
“Lady Macbeth is pretty horrible . . . she’s pretty evil,” she said. “Eventually she starts to get her conscience back, and she starts to feel guilt.”
Even with death, murder, drama and bouts of insanity, the play has more comedy than the original.
“It’s not as serious as you’d expect,” said Peck. “We put a couple laughs in there, some gags.”
Some of the jokes and lines have been added along the way during rehearsals, said Grove.
Because he wrote the play himself, Grove said he often finds himself making tweaks to go along with what he envisioned. He tries to let the actors shape their characters as well.
“I always sort of let the actors guide me,” said Grove. “I’ve got good kids, so I don’t want to squash their creativity. It’s what it’s all about, really.”
Grove, who also has experience as an actor, will be making a cameo as the porter, something he has done in other plays at Lower Dauphin.
Overall, the students have really enjoyed Grove’s modern translation. It’s an approach he also uses when teaching Shakespeare in class.
“I try to make it as current and as relatable as possible,” said Grove.
Hoag said the translation has helped her understand Shakespeare more.
“Mr. Grove did an amazing job with translating it and making it more understandable for obviously the audience’s purpose and our purpose,” he said.
Hoag said that while some people find Shakespeare boring, they should definitely give this performance a chance.
Show times are Thursday, Nov. 15; Friday, Nov. 16; and Saturday, Nov. 17 – all at 7 p.m.