Initiating Macbeth

Mirron Willis & Rob Nagle in Les Blancs, CF10

There’s a tradition at Antaeus that gave me pause when I arrived here a month ago and that’s the tradition of Project Initiator. While we list each project’s initiator in all of our marketing materials, we rarely explain what exactly it means. Next week’s Work in Process is “Macbeth” (is it ok to type that in a theater???) and Rob Nagle, both Macbeth himself and the Project Initiator, helped me understand this concept and why it’s such a fundamental part of our work here. “One of the most empowering parts of being a member of the Antaeus Company is the ability to initiate a project. Since the star of our company is the acting ensemble itself, we are encouraged to find projects for the ensemble. It doesn’t matter whether they are obscure works or famous ones. In order for us to start the process of exploring a work, the project has to have an initiator — I guess you could think of me as Macbeth’s sponsor.”

For this play in particular, Rob was able to point to the exact moment when he knew “Macbeth” was right for Antaeus. “I was standing around with three fellow company members in one of their kitchens during a birthday party in January. We were brainstorming about some of the projects that were being considered for the coming season, and I was confused by some of the choices that were in the running for possible productions,” Rob told me. When one of his friends asked what production he’d like to do, his immediate response was “Macbeth.” As the rest of his friends all signaled their excitement, he knew it was a good idea. This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment idea though. “I’d been thinking of and hoping to revisit the play somehow. My wife has been gently nudging me for the past several years. I had the good fortune to explore the Scottish play when I was an undergraduate at Northwestern University, in a production under the direction of Bud Beyer. That must’ve been 1991 or so. It’s such an amazing gift to revisit it twenty years later, and to find more & more layers to a play I thought I knew rather well.”

Rob joked of initiating “Macbeth” that “I suppose it means you can lay the blame squarely on me if you don’t like what you see,” but even he has to admit everything Antaeus does is a collaboration, even from the point of view of the project initiator. He spoke highly of Jessica Kubzansky, the director of “Macbeth,” and how grateful he was to have the opportunity to work with her. “I also owe a huge debt to two actresses at Antaeus who’ve given of their time and explored this play with me in the past several months: Avery Clyde & Dana Green. I’m a very lucky man, and a very lucky actor.”

I found myself remembering how much I too love “Macbeth” as I listened to Rob’s comments on the play and the process thus far. One of the greatest things about seeing an Antaeus production during ClassicsFest is this shared discovery or re-discovery of a great work and that passion starts with the initiation of the piece and doesn’t stop until the journey is complete. As Rob himself said, “I am falling in love with the play all over again. I really couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Summer Intern and Columbia University MFA Candidate Jen Hoguet is keeping you up-to-date on all things ClassicsFest this summer at Antaeus. She can be reached via email at or followed on twitter @JHoToGo …..


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