Young actors to bring ‘Macbeth’ to life in Camas

CHS production of Shakespeare play set to open Nov. 8

Director Sean Kelly (sitting, center) provides notes during a Sept. 24 "Macbeth" rehearsal at Camas High School.

A lot of rules seem unfair in high school. Camas High not letting its actors bring home their swords, however, is probably one of the more reasonable ones.

But the young theater troupe has to get used to the weight of metal somehow — sometimes setting up a few odd conversations with Home Depot employees.

“He was like ‘What kind? How big?’ and I was like, ‘I just need a 36-inch steel pipe, dude,'” Camas High thespian Clayton Lukens said, laughing at the memory of trying to find a sword stand-in at a home supplies store.

Lukens, 16, will play Macbeth in the upcoming production of the William Shakespeare play by the same name.

Now a junior at Camas High, Lukens said he’s been doing theater since he was in the third grade. Or, as he put it, “for eight long years.”

“Out of all the eight years, I think this is the most challenging thing I’ve ever had to do,” Lukens said of training for the upcoming play. “I’m finishing my work early in class and pulling out my script. There’s so much text, and you want to make sure it’s completely accurate because you have to do it justice.”

“Macbeth,” opening Nov. 8 at Camas High, is as linguistically and physically challenging as any Shakespeare production. The script is technically difficult and the play is no light-hearted romp.

“One of the major themes in ‘Macbeth’ is power, and how one acquires it and how one deals with it once one gets it,” Sean Kelly, Camas High theater instructor and “Macbeth” director, said. “There’s a lot of experimentation with and toying with the idea of gender as we understand it in a binary and mixing those lines. Shakespeare does a really beautiful job of questioning: What is it to be a man and what is it to be a woman?”

Power, violence, gender — all sum up high school pretty well. But Kelly thinks these concepts will strike a chord with a wider audience, too, in a rapidly shifting societal climate. With all this to digest, presented in what can seem like a foreign language, Kelly is making an extra effort to keep audiences engaged: he’ll stage “Macbeth” in the round, meaning viewers will be seated closely on all four sides of the action.

“You can’t really ignore the audience under that circumstance. So, it’s going to be a very intimate performance, a very powerful performance. It’s my favorite way to present Shakespeare,” Kelly said.

With heavy themes, unusual staging and swordplay to boot, a production like this requires chemistry and trust. Wyatt Hodgson, 17, said there’s no shortage of either in the cast. Many of these students have been in plays together throughout high school. Hodgson, a senior playing MacDuff, said that extends to his relationship with Kelly as well.

“He’s passionate. He’s very passionate. And he knows what he’s doing,” Hodgson said of the theater director. “He’s just a good guy.”

Kelly said he tries to run a Shakespeare show every three years or so, hoping every cycle of students has at least one shot at tackling the challenge. It’s the pivotal moments of recognition in students that make the effort worthwhile, he said.

“Once they get on their feet, sometimes they go, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize that’s what that moment was about,'” Kelly said. “That’s one of the most amazing things I’ve witnessed as a teacher — seeing a student discover that moment.”

Chloe Higgins, a 16-year-old junior playing Lady MacDuff, said the audience should be ready to experience similar pivotal moments during the production. Even though friends and family won’t have had two months to study the language of the script, Higgins said the show will deliver.

“They may be surprised how much they like it,” she said. “Even if you don’t really understand the words, you can still get themes and messages. With ‘Macbeth’ — which has such an extreme, powerful, applicable message — I think they’ll take something away from it.”

“Macbeth” opens Nov. 8, at Camas High School and runs Nov. 8-10 and Nov. 15-17. Tickets may be purchased online at wa-camas.intouchreceipting.com, or before the show at the box office.