Macbeth — Gangster style
M-CHS actor passionate about new role and all things Shakespeare
The evil Shakespearean character Macbeth is no match for veteran actor Joshua Martin. The longest-standing member of the Montezuma-Cortez High School theater department has proven to be one volatile force.
Outgoing and well-spoken, this senior has been involved with the theater department since his freshman year. As the lead player of Macbeth, Martin embodies one of Shakespeare's most heinous characters. And he is totally OK with that. He is used to being the villian.
"This is my first lead role, but my third role as a villain," Martin says." And it depends on what you define as lead. I've been the lead villain twice."
He says that with a smirk. It seems he enjoys the typecast. Or maybe he's been holding out for the perfect lead.
Having read a few Shakespeare plays on his own time, Martin, 18, was thrilled when auditions for Macbeth came around. He speaks Shakespeare fluently. The film noir essence that the department embraced for the play was also extremely appealing to Martin. He's a fan of the 1940s gangster films and wrote a history paper on Al Capone's final year.
Shakespeare and gangsters. This Macbeth was right up his alley.
The character Macbeth, is portrayed as a private investigator in the M-CHS version. Mobsters and gangsters are at war, and Macbeth is climbing the political ladder by focusing on the title of mayor, promised to him by the bewitching nightclub seductresses. Their tommy guns are their swords. Mayors are kings. Noblemen are police officers.
Martin stepped into the role effortlessly. At his side, best friend Caden O'Brien plays opposite the young actor as Banquo, the best friend to Macbeth. He sees Martin as the perfect fit.
"He's wanted to be in a Shakespeare play for awhile," O'Brien says. "He's comfortable with the character. He's really good at being evil. He likes it."
Martin won't argue with that. But it's more than the devilish, gruesome vibe of Macbeth that drew him to this play. The themes of Macbeth were hard-hitting for Martin. He recognizes the importance of the play for audiences, outside of the acting and stage props.
"It's a great thing that we are doing this show," Martin says. "It may be gruesome, but it has lots of good themes, like greed, that inhabits our modern day society. And it goes deep enough to show what people would do to get what they want."
O'Brien agrees, saying the main reason he hopped on board the Shakespeare wagon, was because of the deeper layers the story contains.
Martin and O'Brien will take the stage together. The two best friends were giddy with excitement when the auditions came around. Nicholaus Sandner, the theater department director, says this play drew more students to auditions than any other play he has directed. The boys were the first to take action.
O'Brien's character, Banquo, is a also private eye. Together these friends grapple with their inner voices, as Banquo watches Macbeth dive into his temptations. Offstage, the two actors cut-up with one another, go over lines then take to their scenes with pure professionalism.
"It's comfortable to be on stage with him (Martin)," O'Brien says. "We like to think we are the same person but we are really complete opposites, just like our characters. It's great that we get to show our friendship in the beginning because our characters are friends, but we don't let that get in the way of where the play actually ends up."
Martin doesn't let anything get in his way. The biggest challenge he came across was getting into character. The emotional train that Macbeth is riding takes him into worlds of happiness, anger and sadness, all within one scene. Martin's previous roles were clearly defined. His characters never strayed from one emotion.
"It's really difficult to go from happy to depressed to being very angry," Martin says. "The best way for me to deal with that was to go through all the emotions one by one in the same cycle."
Usually, to gear up for an angry scene, Martin says he would just punch something. Old props were generally the target, but never anything frequently used. And he isn't superstitious. The old Macbeth curse, that has plagued other performances for centuries, didn't haunt this stage and he doesn't hide anything in his sock for good luck.
No good luck charms are in place, but all the characters are. Both Martin and O'Brien are nervous as opening night approaches, mostly because Shakespeare can be intimidating for some. They've seen a few others stumble over their lines, but the actors help out their fellow players if they can.
"I've helped a few new actors out with tips on what to do with your body while on stage so they aren't just standing there. What they do helps my line look better. But that's just me being selfish," Martin jokes. "It's just to make me look good."
Right now, it's all about opening night. Martin is very comfortable on stage. He doesn't get embarrassed easily and is very energetic. He doesn't get nervous before a performance. Martin is only being himself.
"If I get nervous about being myself in front of a bunch of people then that's a bigger problem," Martin says. Leaving little to the imagination, Macbeth delivers death, murder, guilt and moroseness to audiences starting Friday night at the M-CHS Auditorium.