Go Deeper

Road Trip! Delaware Shakespeare Festival Gears Up “Macbeth”

Posted July 7th, 2010

Chomping at the bit for your outdoor Shakespeare? Can’t wait for Clark Park at the end of the month? Well, Molly Cahill Govern’s got a deal for you. For only $12 you can catch Macbeth at the Delaware Shakespeare Festival. On the grounds of an historic mansion, the child-friendly festival is a nice way to while away a summer evening.

Molly, the founder and artistic director of the festival, returned to the area two years after completing her studies in theater at Northwestern University. Having studied Shakespeare abroad in London, she was hungry to dig into his work professionally. Since its creation in 2003, the festival attracts over 3,000 people during each run, and with support from the Delaware Humanities Forum, offers extensive educational programming. We recently spoke about the festival and what to expect from this summer’s offerings.

Why did you decide to start a Shakespeare festival in Wilmington?
It occurred to me we didn’t have something like that in our state. [Shakespeare]’s my favorite thing about acting and about theater. I wanted to share that with the First State. It was a really fast turnaround. I had the idea in March and put up the first show in early July.

You’re the director for this show. What’s your vision for Macbeth?
We’re setting it in the 11th century. The play really works well in that time period—it’s a pretty scary place. [Macbeth] is the original Elizabethan thriller. It’s very dark and very twisted. When they were talking about people in Scotland, they had this very strange idea of what life was like up there. Nobody was safe back then.

When they were seating and unseating kings on a regular basis, it’s easy to see how this story can come out of that time period. Somebody gets a little info, decides to act on it, and the whole world spirals out of control. It helps with the elements of the play to marry it with the earthiness of that time period. The raw landscape—that’s where we’re headed.

Who benefits from your education and outreach programs?
We have two big programs. One is called “Shakespeare: Then, Now, and Always,” a school visit program where a scholar goes into high schools. We go in and teach them a different way to approach it, to not be so intimidated. We teach them to find hidden clues in the text that Shakespeare wrote in for actors. Hopefully, by the end they have a new way to approach the text.

The other program is also sponsored by DHF this year, and is partially supported by the Delaware Family Court Judges. A judge approached us in 2008 to create a program where adjudicated youth could learn lessons from Shakespeare in their own lives and come see the show for free. We’ve expanded to at-risk youth as well. We teach them about the play that we’re doing that summer. We have lessons from Macbeth that feature in their own lives, then after the play they get to meet with some of the actors and director and talk about what they saw.

We also have the gates open about one hour before the show. Two actors come to talk to the audience, and we do a Q and A. Anything the audience wants to know before watching it they can ask. Our college apprentices also perform a comedic pre-show that gives a little background about Macbeth.

You started the festival at Archmere Academy. Why the move to Rockwood?
After three years our audience had grown so much, and they were about to do reconstruction at the campus. We pursued the Rockwood connection and moved in 2006.

Tell me about Rockwood Park and Museum.
It’s the estate of Joseph Shipley, built in the 1860s. It reflects the mansion that he had in England. He never had any children, so he left it to his nieces or cousins. It’s [now] a county park. At the time we wanted to move they were thinking about other ways to connect with the community.

We perform directly behind the mansion on a raised stage, and we use the mansion as the backdrop. It’s almost reminiscent of the Globe in a way. The background is always the same. It is extraordinarily beautiful at night. It’s hard to describe unless you come, but it’s quite magical when the lights hit Rockwood

The Delaware Shakespeare Festival presents Macbeth from July 16 to July 31 at Rockwood Park and Museum, 610 Shipley Road, Wilmington, Del. 7:30 pm Wednesdays through Saturdays, 6:00 pm Sunday. $12 general admission, $10 students/seniors/active military. Free for children five years of age and younger; children under 10 are free on Sundays with a paid adult admission. For full details, visit their schedule page.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Photos courtesy Delaware Shakespeare Festival