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Jose Tarot

Jose Espinosa as The Porter, inspired by The Hanged Man of Tarot
Photography by Ashley Tsai

There’s a lot of chatter around the notion of “modernizing” Shakespeare. Why does one do it? Is it valuable? Is it a cop-out? What the heck does it even mean?

Our publicity campaign for Macbeth is a microcosm of what modernizing Shakespeare means to me. We have this old pop art form, Tarot cards, and then we have our modern sensibilities. So, in order to release the essence of what’s still relevant and poignant about Tarot, we infused the images with our contemporary point of view, thus creating our images for Macbeth. The CityShakes crew sat in a circle around the pile of Tarot cards. We each selected one that just felt most like Macbeth to us. Then we tried to explain what about the card reminded us of Macbeth, and then tried to find the 2013 version of what that looks like. To me, this yields some pretty awesome-looking images. But beyond that, there’s a kind of cultural transcendence that gets carried from the Tarot card into our reproduction of it, a set of unconscious connotations that we hope resonates more deeply – and perhaps unconsciously – with the viewer. And, as it turns out, using our modern world to release the essence of Tarot in turn helps us express and explore something about our modern world.

For example, in my card (see below), the woman intentionally guarding herself against the world by covering her eyes and holding weapons across her chest reminded me of the witches in MacbethHowever, the swords and blindfold didn’t resonate with a world I know. So, I thought, in what ways can a woman put her guard up today? To me, a big one is crafting an image of “cool”, and that’s what led to the costume, cigarette, and body position choices in my reproduction of the card. Through this discussion and the card itself, I learned something about the relationship between image and intimacy in our world today. And that’s pretty cool if you ask me.

Brooke Tarot

Our production of Macbeth modernizes Shakespeare in a similar manner. It doesn’t attempt to change the story or force it into a box that can’t contain it. Rather, it tries to use some elements of human experience (as Shakespeare wrote it, anyway) to reveal something about our world today, by seeing what the worlds have in common. Why don’t you join us and let us know how we did?

You can get your tickets here.

– Brooke

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