Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Colored folk are natural actors."

William F. McDermott
The Plain Dealer, September 30, 1936

A tropical and riotously colored carnival ... the gentle Bard of Avon is bedecked with voodoo dances, tom-toms, savage noises, strange writhings and as fine a set of fancy-dress ball uniforms as ever dazzled and audience.

The most extraordinary production of 'Macbeth' that the American theater has ever seen and it is one of the most interesting to pass this was in my time ... a good show and an exciting spectacle ... grotesque, wild, tumultuous.

As Shakespearean production goes it is a stunt, but a successful stunt ... many lines are lost because they who speak them have not enough practice in the delivery of blank verse... the critical moments are sometimes dimmed because the actors are obviously not equal to them ... yet, these colored actors succeed in bringing Shakespeare alive. They give him strange dimensions, they distort his meaning ... but they infuse him with some of their own excitement and lend him their own special nimbleness and pungency.

Colored folk are natural actors. They have histrionic temperament. They play spontaneously and with gusto. Their weakness is a tendency to overact. Shakespeare warned against it; but his plays can stand a whirlwind of passion. They are better overacted than underacted.
Maurice Ellis as Macbeth, Edna Thomas as Lady Macbeth, Canada Lee (Banquo) and Charles Collins (Macduff) are singled out for praise.

The director is never mentioned.

Newsreel footage of the Federal Theatre's Macbeth

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