Macbeth’s Lobby Display

by Jessa Cunningham, dramaturg

If you came and saw our production of Macbeth here at BYU last week or the week before, you would have seen this outside in the lobby: IMG_4875

If you looked closely, you would see that the sign reads: “Beware Macbeth’s Story! Do you have something (a fear, worry, etc.) that takes up time in your life? Write it down and throw it into the cauldron to get rid of it. Don’t let it consume your life like some of the characters in the play!”

This was an interesting exercise in which many audience members participated. The things written on the little bits of paper ranged from the silly all the way to the serious and personal. It was wonderful seeing the audience engage with the show and apply the themes and lessons to their own lives. Hopefully it served as a therapeutic exercise of sorts, and some people were able to relieve themselves of the worry they feel. Continue reading

Drums and Puppetry in Macbeth

by Jessa Cunningham, dramaturg

macbeth-1140x600-1024x539This production of Macbeth is unique in and of itself. However, something that certainly sets it apart from other productions is our director, Teresa Love, and her decision to make drumming and puppetry and integral element in the show.

Many members of the cast will take turns drumming during the show, so Teresa brought in drum consultant Nes Andersen to do some workshops. During his time with the group, he gave them the opportunity to get comfortable with the drums and do some fun exercises. It looks like everyone had a great time! Our wonderful stage manager, MK, took some videos of the workshop, of which you can see one below. Does it get you excited to see how the drumming will be incorporated into the show? Continue reading

Macbeth vs. Macbeth

by Jessa Cunningham, dramaturg


William Shakespeare based the titular character of his–some might say spookiest– play on an actual figure from Scottish history. However, he took some creative license in his portrayal of the king, changing some facts and traits to make the story more compelling to his audience. Let’s take a look at some of the similarities and differences between Mac Bethad mac Findlaich (the real Macbeth) and Shakespeare’s character:

Continue reading

What is BYU Young Company?

by Jessa Cunningham, dramaturg

11187803_934517939916641_6821388596940476466_oOne of the coolest things about this production of Macbeth is that after the show closes at BYU, it will play other places for a while. That’s right, the cast of this show will go on tour, and visit many different elementary schools in the area over the course of a couple months! That way, more children are reached and get to see these famous Shakespeare characters come to life! That’s all thanks to the BYU Young Company.

What is Young Company? It’s a training ground for both actors and training artists that want to work in theatre for young audiences. They facilitate interaction with children of all ages, and get them involved and excited about theatre with the shows they perform. Each year, the Young Company performs for more than 16,000 young people! They oftentimes do workshops and activities in the schools they visit, which help to nurture a strong relationship with the audiences they meet.

This year, they have decided to bring Shakespeare’s Macbeth to life, and it couldn’t be cooler. The actors, designers, and director are all working incredibly hard so this show touches all who see it. They are making something truly special for the children– you won’t want to miss it!  It will be a treat for everyone involved.

During the run of the show, you’ll come to get to know the members of the cast and others involved with the show, so keep in touch! Continue reading

All Hail Macbeth!

by Jessa Cunningham, dramaturg

Do you hear the beating of the drums off in the distance? Macbeth and his troops are approaching. Brace yourself for his arrival! Prepare yourself for the danger that Macbeth brings!

You’re in for a real treat this February here at BYU; Young Company is producing one of Shakespeare’s most famous play: Macbeth. It’ll be a play full of fighting, witchcraft, paranoia, ghosts, and so much more. You won’t want to miss this show– the cast is working hard on making sure this production is engaging for audiences of all ages!

Here on this blog, I will keep you updated on important things that relate to the show. This could include but is not limited to rehearsal updates, historical background information, educational and important tidbits, and cast highlights. If you want to stay in touch with what is happening with the show before it goes up, check back here frequently! I will work hard to keep you in the know.

macbeth2 Continue reading

All Good Things Must Come to an End

by Jessa Cunningham, dramaturg

Saturday was the last show of Earnest, and it was sad to see such a fun show go. These past months that I have been working on the show, I have learned so much. Not only have I learned about myself, but I have learned about the world. The world that Wilde lived in, the world his characters lived in, and also the world we live in now.

It is always easy to watch a play and distance yourself from what is happening onstage from the real world. However, I find it more rewarding when I can apply it to the world around me. I found many instances of that with this play, and it made my work more interesting. I could have easily done the research on Victorian etiquette and thought of how silly these old English people were. But, instead I found connections between their culture back then to ours of today. Surprisingly, some things do not change, and if you’ve seen the show you can probably spot the similarities.

As I worked on Earnest, I realized that my work did not just involve historical research: it also included research about people and human interactions. As a dramaturg, there is nothing more interesting to me than learning about human interactions through the ages. How did the Victorian men treat the Victorian woman? Is there any similarity to how men treat women today? What were the relations like between the upper and lower class back then? How is that relationship in modern times? It is easy to draw up a curtain on the past and say, “Oh, we’d never do that now!” But where’s the interest in that? I find theatre far more intriguing when it is something I can relate to. importanceearnest_original

These are some of the things I am thinking as I bring my work with this hilarious show to a close. It was a blast, and there never was a dull moment. I hope that when you saw the show you were able to see those moments and laugh– whether that be at the actors or at yourself for relating so much to what they were doing. Allow yourself the trivial moments that Lady Bracknell criticizes. Life is too boring when everything is serious! Continue reading

And the Moral of the Story Is…

by Jessa Cunningham, dramaturg

…Don’t worry, I’m not actually going to tell you what the moral of The Importance of Being Earnest is. That’s because that isn’t for me to decide, it’s for you.

220px-millard-importance-earnestIn one of the first meetings I had with Rodger Sorensen, the director, he emphasized his desire to not project a theme or moral on the audience. His reasoning behind this was because of Oscar Wilde’s amoral nature– he wrote his plays without any themes or morals. Wilde just wrote to tell a story, which is what Rodger wanted to do with this play as well. However, just because Wilde wrote it without a theme in mind doesn’t mean you as an audience member can’t glean some message from it.

This is the fun part: you get to choose for yourself what you get from the show! As you leave the show, you have the chance to ask yourself what you learned, if you learned anything at all. Did Jack teach you something particularly profound? Did the hilarious situation of the characters enlighten you in some way? If so, how and why? Was it just a nice, funny show to watch that allowed you to laugh and forget the troubles of the world for a few hours? If so, that’s great too! That’s the wonderful thing about the theatre: two people can see the exact same show and walk away from it with differing opinions and perspectives. There is no right or wrong, just thoughts that can start some fantastic conversations.

With only a few days left of this run, keep that in mind when you see the show. Talk to your neighbor at intermission. Engage in conversation about the show. You might be surprised about what you learn and share. Besides, going to the theatre is always more fun when it is like that, right? Continue reading

Meet the Victorians: Part 2

by Jessa Cunningham, dramaturg

A couple of posts ago, you got to meet a few of the wonderful actors in the show. Now you get to meet the rest of them!

Madison Dennis– Miss Prism

hermione-me-ollivandersWhat is your favorite line from your character in the play?

Does running away from Lady Bracknell count as a favorite line?

Are you a rule breaker or a rule follower?

Definitely more of a rule follower…for the most part.

If you lived in the Victorian Era, what type of person do you think you would be?

I would be upper class, but not aristocratic.

What aspect of Victorian England would you enjoy the most?

The literature and theater, and the extravagant female clothing. Although I’m perfectly fine without the corsets.

Country or city?

Live in the city with weekends in the country.

Afternoon tea or a dinner party?

Probably dinner party?

Which character from the show do you relate to the most?

I relate to Gwendolen the most.

Why should people come and see our show?

This is a classic piece of theater. Everyone should know this story and we have really lovely cast members. It’s laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Meagan Flinders– Cecily Cardew

20160927_144309What is your favorite line from your character in the play? Continue reading

Wit, Words, and Wonderful Games

by Jessa Cunningham, dramaturg

What makes The Importance of Being Earnest such a long lasting play? For us working on this production, the magic lies in the words. Wilde clearly knew what he was doing and what he was saying, and he was able to pack his characters full of wit. Fashions may come and go, but wit is forever– that’s a saying, right?

In any case, this was the topic that I wrestled with when it came to my lobby display. Rodger Sorensen, the director, and I decided that focusing on the words and the wit would be most paramount for the display, so I ran with that idea.img_4610

On first glance, the display looks like an extension of the set, warmly welcoming the audience into the Victorian world of the characters. But, couple it with the last page of the study guide, and you get a fun game that plays off the triviality of the characters and the wit that Wilde employs. After you watch the play, go take a look at the two lobby displays and see if you can complete the game. It’s a fun interaction with the play and the humor that is ingrained throughout. Make sure to stop by before or after the show and play the game! Continue reading

Meet the Victorians: Part 1

by Jessa Cunningham, dramaturg

The cast is working hard to make Earnest a real treat for audiences, and I thought it was time for you to meet them. There never is a dull moment in rehearsals, and it is clear that these actors mean business when it comes to comedy. In this post and the next, you will get a glimpse at the personalities of the people behind our beloved Victorians. I asked them a few questions pertaining to the show to see how they connect to it, and they did not disappoint. Enjoy their natural wit and pump yourself up for the hilarity that will soon ensue!


Sean Worsley (Jack Worthing)

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-8-32-01-pmWhat is your favorite line from your character in the play?

Hard choice because I feel like Jack’s lines are more “set-up” lines, but if I had to pick one I’d choose, “Gwendolen, it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Can you forgive me?”

Are you a rule breaker or a rule follower? 

Rule follower.

 If you lived in the Victorian Era, what type of person do you think you would be? 

Lower class for sure.

 What aspect of Victorian England would you enjoy the most?

The fantasizing that would take place of leaving Victorian England.

 Country or city?

Definitely Country.

 Afternoon tea or a dinner party?

Afternoon tea. That way I could get to bed early.

 Which character from the show do you relate to the most?

Merriman 115% of the time.

Why should people come and see our show? 

Because if they’ve dedicated the time to read all of these, they might as well come see the show, too.


Emma Widtfeldt (Gwendolen Fairfax)

image1What is your favorite line from your character in the play? 

“I thought so. In fact, I am never wrong.” Continue reading