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Shakespeare and Rihanna? Redhouse meshes classical theater with pop culture

Redhouse Theater

The Redhouse Theatre Company in Syracuse is staging one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, Macbeth. However, it’s not like the traditional versions you’ve seen before. Imagine Lady Macbeth, washing her hands in clothing from H&M and speaking in a modern city accent. With a faint sound of Rihanna as the show transitions from scene to scene.

This remix on Macbeth aims to bring classical theater to younger audiences, meshing classical theater shows with elements of pop culture. And Macbeth’s star Jon Hoche said the reimagined production puts diversity front and center on the stage, but also behind the scenes.

“I’m really excited about this production being a person of color and seeing so many people of color on the creative end of it, as in our lighting designer, our fight choreographer, our director, and the you know it’s not very often that you get to see someone of color to take on the role of Macbeth or Lady Macbeth.”

Lady Macbeth, played by Caroline Strange, said the reimagining will help today’s youth connect with the historical work.

 "We are not doing Shakespeare, we are not standing, you know, with transatlantic dialects darling, we are speaking with our own voices. Shakespeare is for us. And in 200 years, they will be analyzing Tupac, and Biggie, and Mos Def, and Talib Kweli. They will be analyzing Lauryn Hill the way they are analyzing Shakespeare.

Director Temar Underwood said he wants this remix to speak to the audiences that long feel like Shakespeare was not made for them. He emphasized how incorporating all these different elements brings along a new way to look at Shakespeare.

"What’s different for me is the perspective, all of us are people of color and when you put that lens on a classic work it has no choice but to bend to you, and when you allow it to bend to you it opens up a new world on how you can see it.“

He said he hopes the emphasis on rhythm and music will unlock an interest in Shakespeare for the crowd, which will be full of Syracuse high school students. A grant awarded to the Redhouse Arts Center allows them to attend for free. The production of Macbeth runs through the weekend.

Redhouse Arts Center

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct a misspelling of Hoche's name.