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Not Your Momma’s Shakespeare

Posted 03/01/2017 by Lucy Peterson

The stage is set for Palmieri’s modern day Macbeth, premiering Thursday, March 2. photo by Andrew Seidenstat

Experience Shakespeare’s notorious Macbeth in a 21st century setting.

After five years, drama teacher and former TJ theatre director Michael Palmieri is reviving his 21st century spin-off of Shakespeare’s acclaimed Macbeth. The play, titled Macbeth 2012, was first written and produced by Palmieri during the 2012-2013 school year when he was the theatre director, before stepping down from the position in 2014. It will be reproduced with new student actors to be presented to a sold out house in TJ’s Black Box Theatre.

During the summer of 2012, Palmieri was contemplating an idea for the school play for the upcoming school year. He had decided on Shakespeare – Macbeth being Palmieri’s favorite work – but quickly abandoned the idea after considering the language and complexity of Shakespearean plays. After listening to Green Day’s American Idiot: The Broadway Cast Recording, he began tying lyrics from the album to Shakespeare’s characters Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, among others, and had the idea to write a modern take on the play. “It’s what I consider to be my masterpiece, and it’s not your momma’s Shakespeare,” explained Palmieri. He wanted to stay true to the theme of Macbeth, but also wanted to give it more power, make it more modernized, and up the tempo to give the audience a new take on the tragedy. He wrote the play to be accompanied by the music of Green Day, and thus created Macbeth 2012.

After a successful run of the show in the fall of 2012, Palmieri set the play aside and focused on the next season’s play, subsequently focusing more on his teaching. Since he has stepped down from the theatre director position, he has become the drama teacher and reinvented his classroom theatre, the Black Box. With half of the classroom painted completely black, a raised stage, and an elaborate sound and light system, he had all the materials needed to create productions in the comfort of his own classroom. Palmieri began putting on shows with his drama students, producing several scenes from August Wilson in 2014 and Jose Rivera’s Marisol in the fall of 2015. He has since decided to challenge his drama students further, giving them the task of reviving his version of Macbeth in the intimate environment that is the Black Box Theatre. “I think it’s awesome that we’re doing a 21st century adaptation of Macbeth. It’s so cool to see a classic brought into the modern world,” said junior Jay Iyema, acting as one of the weird sisters based upon the three witches from the original Macbeth.

With the first production of Macbeth 2012, there was a very intricate set that was created, however this time around will focus more on the lighting and sounds and the actors’ ability to create their characters. “What I sacrificed for a big set the first go-around will be more than made up by the fact that everyone will be so close to the action,” Palmieri expressed. The theatre will seat only 50 people per night and tickets were first come first serve, showing on March 2 – 4. The tickets to the show are now sold out, and Palmieri and his students are preparing for a successful showing of Palmieri’s original rewrite.