Shakespeare Under the Moon is one of more than 20 groups that are performing the bard’s plays outdoors throughout Southern California. Most are performed in parks, although Shakespeare in the Vines performs in a Temecula vineyard and winery, and Shakespeare in the Cemetery, whose productions are temporarily suspended due to financial difficulties, performs in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Shakespeare Under the Moon strives to bring classical Shakespeare to communities of all sizes around California. It is the only California Shakespearean company that takes its productions on the road. This summer they will perform in diverse towns as Twenty-Nine Palms, Redwood City, Pismo Beach, Ridgecrest and Paso Robles. In addition, they invite local aspiring actors and actresses to apply to be part of the production in their home town.
On the night of the first dress rehearsal we carry our lawn chairs around the corner and down the block. As we find a spot on the grassy parking strip, three performers in their plaids practice a dueling scene. In the driveway, one of the witches finishes assembling her costume before she dons her rubber mask with its exaggerated nose and chin.
A technician finishes his beer and begins adjusting the color lighting disks, while scanning the script for his lighting cues. “I haven’t read Macbeth since high school,” he tells his assistant.
“Ten minutes to start,” shouts one of the actors, who also appears to be directing the operations. He also lives at the Wish Street house where the stage is set up on the front lawn.
One of the actors walks out of the open garage carrying a big pail with red goo. “Must be their supply of blood,” my son BJ comments.
“When shall we three meet again. In thunder, lightning, or in rain?” shrieks one of the witches as they slither across the street behind us and onto the sidewalk next to where we sit. A man and woman from the neighborhood out walking their dog stop to watch. Fog billows out from under the platform. And immediately we become involved in Shakespeare’s poetic, yet brutal, dialogue, set in Duncan’s palace in Forres, at the northern tip of Scotland – where my great-grandfather had a jewelry business – and Macbeth’s castle in Inverness.
“I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry,” Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth after he kills Duncan and has Banquo, whom he views as a threat, murdered. The wispy clouds over the house turn the orange-red of a southwest summer sky as dusk creeps in. A breeze rustles in the neighbors trees lending a foreboding ambiance as Macbeth walks from behind a partition, his hands covered with Duncan’s blood.
Before we know it, someone behind the stage yells, “Intermission.” We wish we could stay to see the second half; however, I have a flight to catch the next morning and need to pack.
As we walk down the street we ponder the age-old question of Macbeth: is the story one of despair, or of hope? While the answer always remains the interpretation of each audience member, we decide it is hopeful that the neighbors on Wish Street have the opportunity to be part of the story in their own front yards.