Against all odds, Macbeth performance goes smoothly at Logan Center

Staff Writer

“Macbeth” is a play with a reputation.

The Scottish Play, as theater folks euphemistically call it, earned that title because it has a history, real or perceived, for bringing mayhem to any theater that performs it.

That didn’t deter University of Chicago fourth year Eamon Boylan from directing a sold-out run that played last weekend at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.

“I really do think there is some evilness and some horribleness behind the word itself and what we think of ‘Macbeth.’ I think that goes all the way back to the king himself in Scotland,” Boylan said of the 11th century king on whom William Shakespeare based the play. “In history books he has been rewritten a lot. His successors were from a line of kings he had killed and in the same way of this play we’ve kind of decided to mar this individual and make him evil. There’s a bit of retribution.”

According to legend, Shakespeare used spells from real witches as dialogue in the play. When the witches saw the performance they were not happy and cursed any and all troupes that would do the show.

To this day most theater troupes forbid saying “Macbeth” while inside a theater, during rehearsals or at any time. Those who do anyway are urged to perform a cleansing ritual to prevent grievous injury or harm to anyone in the show.

Troupes or actors who ignored the superstition, so the legend goes, have experienced awful tragedies during production — real knives used mistakenly for prop knives or fires in brand new theaters.

“I do believe at its very essence the superstition is rooted in the theatrical convention of community rules, community guidelines,” Boylan said. “I really do strongly believe — that’s the basis of a good ensemble.”

Boylan compares the superstition to a fairy tale.

“In a fairy tale we tell children if you talk to strangers he’ll be a wolf. There’s the rule and then there’s the warning of the consequences of that rule. Don’t take candy from strangers because the worst thing will happen,” Boylan said. “Saying the name of the play in a performance or the rehearsal space will cause ultimate doom. Its not so much important the actual doom it’s that we all believe in it.”

Whenever anyone in his ensemble violates the rule, to cleanse the space that person has to go outside the theater, turn around three times, say a line from “Hamlet” and knock three times before they can be let back in.

It’s better, Boylan said, if that person goes outside the building and spits on the ground but sometimes there just isn’t time.