A tale as old as time: VPA presents “Macbeth”


Josie Ramler (‘23) takes the stage as Macbeth in the visual and performing arts department’s production of “Macbeth” November 17 through 19. Photo courtesy of Nick Greseth (‘23).

A group of student actors brought a tale of greed, ambition and horror to life in Jewel Theatre as the Visual and Performing Arts Department (VPA) presented William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” November 17 through November 19. The production was directed by Associate Professor of Theatre Robert Vrtis. 


“Macbeth” tells the story of Scottish general Macbeth and his fight for the title of king. Angry witches tell Macbeth that he will one day become king. Encouraged by his wife Lady Macbeth, played by Lindsey Fry (‘23), Macbeth kills King Duncan and takes the throne. However, his kingship is marked by paranoia, and in order to maintain his position, he must commit more acts of violence. Josie Ramler (‘23), the actor who took on the titular role of Macbeth, explained why the production was important. 


“I think it is important because it shows a lot of themes that are really deep in Shakespeare like greed and evil, and it’s also just really fun to watch,” Ramler said. “I think that the stage combat is really interesting, and some of the physical elements that are added just make it kind of thrilling and scary.”


The preparation for the production went beyond just practicing the script. Vrtis touched on the work put in by the actors and actresses to understand their characters and the reasoning for their brutality. 


“[The students] do some really interesting research, especially with art and Shakespeare,” Vrtis said. “They are doing a lot of imaginative work. [They’re] sort of fleshing out the reality of their [character’s] lives from their character’s perspective on what this or that means to them.” 


Vrtis and his student actors took inspiration for their adaptation of “Macbeth” from instances of human darkness. Using the themes of greed and evil, Vrtis worked to give the audience a lasting sense of fear. 


“One of the reasons I was drawn to ‘Macbeth’ when we were looking at it a year ago is thinking it is a frightening story, and I think other people should be afraid too,” Vrtis said. “It’s not an exaggeration, globally speaking, to say that we look at a perilous moment, and in that moment, there are people, usually men, who are in power and who are willing to seize it by any means necessary.”


Frightened was an understatement to Alexys Harwood (‘26), who attended the show on Saturday night. She reflected on the impression the production left on her.  


“‘Abhorrence’ is the word I would use to describe how I feel,” Harwood said. “I think I’m disgusted by the fact of how easy it is to relate the production to the real world.” 


The production started with a bloody wrench falling from the rafters of the theater to the stage and the murder of multiple characters. This bloody beginning set the stage for the rest of the show that was to follow. Despite the spooky elements of the play, Harwood enjoyed how well-crafted the production was. 


“While I felt afraid, the overall production of ‘Macbeth’ was so well done,” Harwood said. “I thought the actors and actresses did a great job of portraying the animosity within humanity and used [it] to terrify the audience.”


As all involved in “Macbeth” look toward what is to come, Ramler hoped the audiences took away a lot of meaningful things from the production and were able to reflect on what they saw. 


“I think there is a deep lesson about just being happy with what you’re given and your circumstances,” Ramler said. “Being happy with your environment and making the best out of things.”