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The Eternal Macbeth: A Tale of Wicked Transformation

  • Author(s): Ellis, Elysia
  • Advisor(s): Barón-Nusbaum, Brandin
  • et al.
Abstract

My thesis project was to create costume designs for the world premiere of Marqués, directed by Erik Pearson. The play is a modern adaptation of Macbeth, William Shakespeare's seventeenth century tragedy, a classic that has been subject to layers of meaning over time. The story examines violence through the psychotic breakdown of a man consumed by greed and fear. Macbeth’s desire to alter his destiny, prophesized by three witches, leads to the death of his comrades and loved ones. Ultimately, Macbeth’s impulsive actions also lead to his own demise, foreseen by the Witches. The play poses the question: what is real and what is illusion in life? How does an individual maintain sight of their moral compass in the midst of a corrupt and vicious world?

The research process for Marqués required me to examine violence in two foreign settings: Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the Mexican drug cartel. In these dark worlds, I found inspiration for three eternal and wayward characters, which offered me a light to examine the specter of death. In redeveloping Shakespeare’s iconic Witches, I hoped to enchant new audiences with the story, providing space to consider destruction of culture and of mind. My design process for this production became a resource through which to explore and strengthen my own values and identity as an artist. I found recognizing darkness led to more powerful results than what would have been without it.

In this thesis capstone paper, I focus on my costume design process for Las Brujas, the Witches in Marqués. Through historical, cultural, and contemporary research, discussion of the collaborative process, my direct experience interviewing subjects, and interning on a traditional production of Macbeth, I illustrate how I developed dynamic theatrical costume designs for Las Brujas. Satisfying the desires of the director, the design team, the playwrights, the actors, and the audience, I feel my process was successful in establishing an iconic look for Las Brujas that maintains the power of Shakespeare’s Witches while offering a fresh and relevant interpretation.

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