Macbeth

by William Shakespeare adapted and directed by Dawn Youngs
designed for Cleveland Shakespeare Festival opened: October 28, 2005

Sounds

Preshow Download Link

This production of Macbeth took place over Halloween, so this cue was meant to instill a spooky "haunted woods" feel with quotes from the play occasionally emerging distorted from the shadows.

Demonic Auras Download Link

This is the final combination of the three demonic auras that follow the weïrd sisters interference with Macbeth. This cue was created with Native Instruments' Absynth.

Waltz Download Link

This cue ended up getting cut from the production; it was to be the Macbeths' demonic waltz, though I've lost my documentation on exactly when in the play this was slated to happen.

Design Concept

Dawn Youngs cut the script from the original text so only five actors would be needed. The actors who played the witches doubled every other role in the show; the Macbeths played themselves solely. The premise for this cut was that the Macbeths are being tortured for eternity by demons (i.e. the witches) for their crimes by being forced to relive them for the rest of eternity.

The demons would roam around the stage and occasionally repeat bits of text that resonated as deceptive or evil as the Macbeths spoke. At times, the demons would interact directly with the world of the play: they created the apparition of the knife and were instrumental in altering Lady Macbeth’s mental state.

To support this demonic activity, I wanted a very disturbing and unsettling atmosphere for the demonic activities. Whenever the demons exhibited any direct influence upon the Macbeths or spoke directly to the audience, a demonic aura was present. All other incidental sound effects (church bells, laughter, dining noises, etc.) were heavily processed to muddle and darken the sound.

Design Analysis

My initial design was more complex than the extremely limited equipment I had available. Initially, I intended to use four speakers at the four corners of the thrust stage; only two were available. I also had only two CD players and a four channel mixer at my disposal. Ideally, I would have liked to have a live score with a keyboardist manipulating the “demonic auras” through synthesizer patches so it could be more fluid with the action of the play.

What I ended up with was a layering of three dynamic auras created with Native Instrument’s Absynth. These would act as the three demons in tandem, and I manipulated both CD players to alter the mix as well as possible at different points in the production. The rest of the effects for the show were heavily modified with distortions and echoes.

Since the show was performed around Halloween, I was very careful to avoid emulating the basic consumer-grade “scary sound effects” CDs for home haunted houses. Better equipment would have helped greatly; nevertheless, my design was called “creepily effective” in a review by CoolCleveland.com.