Carolina Ballet presents ballet version of Shakespeare classic

By Rachel Teseneer
Times-News correspondent

   DURHAM – “Macbeth” is one of Shakespeare’s most known and beloved works, filled with violence, the supernatural, and emotionally torn and abused characters. It is not often that one gets the opportunity to see Shakespeare converted into ballet form, but that is exactly what Carolina Ballet’s Artistic Director Robert Weiss and Composer J. Mark Scearce have accomplished. The classic tale of “Macbeth” transformed into a ballet will be performed on Saturday and Sunday at the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), 123 Vivian St.
Scearce, who has been a composer upward of 30 years now, did not start college with that idea in mind.
   “Most people start when they’re young, usually 15 or so. I waited until my senior year of college.”
On the appeal of being a composer, Scearce said,  is multifaceted. The ancient Greeks had muses, and when I compose, I appeal to that muse. I’m able to transcend the limits of this world – to create means to create anything.” He went on to say what it was like to see the dancers performing to his work.
“I see my music go into their bodies and I realize my usefulness.”
Scearce has worked with Weiss on four different occasions. But this production of “Macbeth” is special. This is the first time he has composed music for a Shakespeare play. Composing for Shakespeare is actually simpler. He’s a master and the story is rock solid. Music conveys that emotion.”
Scearce was approached by Weiss in December of 2014.
“He and I worked together for six months, and then we stayed at New York University for six weeks. That time in New York made a huge difference. I would compose in the morning and then play what I had come up with in the afternoons. I didn’t start writing until we got to New York and I finished at the end of that six weeks. I was even surprised at the end. (Macbeth) is the biggest thing I’ve ever done. It’s like writing an encyclopedia. The score itself weighs 42 pounds.”
The cornerstone of Scearce and Weiss’ design for “Macbeth”  is bringing out the love between the title character and Lady Macbeth.
“(Lady Macbeth) is usually seen as overbearing, but that’s just an interpretation. If you look at it from the viewpoint that they love each other, love works with the words, too. The love theme is a common language.”
While Scearce is proud of the entire production, there are several moments he enjoys most.
“I’m really fond of the love theme and people seem to respond to the character of Macduff, but the most fun is the scene with the porter. The comic relief and the music makes me laugh.”
Scearce shared that he’s not a fan of many classic ballets, such as “Swan Lake.”
“They’re superficial. It’s purely about the dance, so it’s a shallower pool. Shakespeare provides a richness and is a guaranteed success. (Macbeth) has a cult of personality and is compelling on its own.”
Audiences won’t miss the violence and darkness that Macbeth possesses, but the ballet will show a side of Macbeth that many people aren’t familiar with. This production promises to be unique and engaging and is definitely a must see for fans of theater and ballet alike. Show times are 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at DPAC. Tickets range from $32.03 to $83.63 and can be purchased at all Ticketmaster outlets.

Rachel Teseneer is a senior home-schooler and a Teens & 20s writer.

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