The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

Ashland University Ashbrook Theatre presents Macbeth

Director Sabrina Maristela describes theater as a ‘reading group come to life’ 
Sean Repuyan
Actors Raymond Yeh (left) and Heath Johnston (right) participate in fight choreography for the show.

The Ashbrook Theatre Company announced it will be presenting a production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth in November and December. This will be the company’s third production.  

Performances will take place at the Studio Theater in Ashland University’s Center for the Arts building on Nov. 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee performance at 1 p.m. on Nov. 19. December shows will take place at The Ashland Theatre, 212 Center Street, at 7 p.m. on Dec. 1 and 1 p.m. on Dec. 3.  

One of Shakespeare’s most revered tragedies, Macbeth follows the events of the titular character as he struggles to become king alongside his wife, Lady Macbeth. In typical Shakespearean fashion, tragedy, betrayal and dramatic irony ensues.  

Preparing for tragedy 

As rehearsals prepare for the upcoming performances, Sabrina Maristela, director and student programs and creative projects manager for the Ashbrook Center, reflected on the theater company’s previous Shakespeare productions, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest.  

“I don’t often do a lot of tragedy, I read tragedies and a lot of it comes from the fact that I just like reading plays. I’d characterize [the Ashbrook Theatre Company] as a reading group come to life,” Maristela said, emphasizing her passion and relationship with theater. “What I feel most confident [about] is comedy. Doing the tragedy has been a good shift. It’s been really fun to explore in directing and with the students as well.”  

 “I’m really happy where we are right now,” she added, reflecting on recent rehearsals.  

 For its production of the Scottish play, the company casted senior Ashbrook Scholars Leanna Uselton and Anna Bielawski for the role of Lady Macbeth. Uselton will be performing in the theater department’s studio performances and Bielawski will take the stage at The Ashland Theatre.  

As director, Maristela expressed the interest in giving the opportunity to both Uselton and Bielawski, as the two emphasized a deep connection with Macbeth’s leading lady and dissecting her as a character.  

“[Lady Macbeth] is such a big role for me and I’ve always wanted to play her,” Uselton said. “Overall, I like her character arc, I think she’s a lot more complex than people give her credit for. It’s been really good working with Sabrina and the rest of the cast, and I’m really excited for people to see it.” 

“I’ve had the unique opportunity to prepare alongside someone else who has a different take on Lady Macbeth. My Lady Macbeth is definitely a little more scared, concerned vibe than sinister,” Bielawski said. “It is kind of fun to play a villain.” 

Both Uselton and Bielawski have been involved in previous Ashbrook productions, with Uselton deeply rooted in AU theatre as president of Alpha Psi Omega, Ashland’s theater honorary, and as the jester in the upcoming Madrigal Feaste.  

Senior Ashbrook Scholar Heath Johnston will be stepping into the lead role of Macbeth.  

“It was kind of a challenge for myself to audition for the lead role,” Johnston said. “It’s stressful for the expectation and the amount of work, [but] it’s a good stress. It’s a space where people are comfortable with making mistakes and we want to do well for Sabrina, the director. Overall, it’s been a fantastic, loving and welcoming experience.” 

Maristela described the casting process as “strange,” saying “We have to find a good marriage between challenging you as an artist and as a student.” 

“It’s a lot about your acting style and what you bring to the character,” she added.  

The company is joined by Fight Choreographer Tobin Grendzynski, with AU theatre, to assist with the more intense fight scenes in the tragic play. Grendzynski helps to ensure a safe and controlled environment for the actors, while also forging intensity and violence into each scene.  

“It’s been wonderful getting support from the community and being able to work with people I wouldn’t have been able to work with before,” Johnston said. “Teresa Durbin-Ames has been fantastic through this entire process and Tobin doing fight calls and fight workshops has been fantastic.”  

The future for Ashland theater 

With the show, Maristela hopes to break the stereotype on Shakespeare plays as “confusing, boring and uptight.”  

“What I hope to leave people with, with Shakespeare at least, is that they are works that you can understand and enjoy and are worth the effort to understand and enjoy because they are so good at portraying what human beings are like,” she said.  

“I feel like there’s always something that people can take away from what they are watching with Shakespeare,” Uselton said.  

Macbeth, in particular, Maristela says, holds various themes intrinsically tied to human nature and understanding oneself, as well as the opposing perspectives of hopelessness and the pursuit of the unknown, with “a lovely undercurrent of redemption right before death.” 

Though Maristela described the company as a classical theatre company, she expressed interest in exploring Grecian or early modern renaissance plays alongside its Shakespearean lean.  

“If you want to have a career in theater, to hone your craft, you need to be involved in AU theatre as well,” Maristela concluded. “Sunsetting the theater major was kind of a shock that reverberated across campus. It was such a vibrant program, so [the Ashbrook theatre company] is meant to be a place where you can continue that love of theater, with an eye on keeping theater strong at Ashland. We’re all just people who love theater.”  

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All AU Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *