Our 2015 Summer Twilight Tragedy director of Macbeth–Matthew Pavik
Hello everyone, and happy January! I am delighted to be back to share with you a recent interview I did with Portland Actors Ensemble’s 2015 Summer Twilight Tragedy director, Matthew Pavik, who will tackle the challenging Macbeth. Matthew is not only a respected director, but addition a familiar face to our audiences, as he is also a fine actor who has appeared in several Portland Actor Ensemble productions over the years.
Today Matthew is going to share his thoughts with us about his work on our upcoming production of Macbeth.
(Athena McElrath—AM) How is superstition important in the play Macbeth? Do you believe in the curse of Macbeth, and will it have an effect on this particular production?
(Matthew Pavik—MP) Superstition isn’t important in MacB – it just IS. It is a fact of life that they accept as part of their world. NO ONE is surprised that they see witches – WHAT!?! If a bunch of witches popped up at me and prophesied, I would get really spooked. The supernatural exists side by side for the folks in the play, and they accept that it always will.
I personally do not believe in the curse of MacB, however, enough other people do, that I think it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. ANYTHING that goes wrong with a production of MacB gets blamed on the curse, which I think is unfair considering the sheer number of things that can go wrong on any production…
However, like any production involving fighting and movement, I try to make sure the cast is comfortable and well trained. I can make sure that everyone is comfortable by respecting the tradition of the curse and not saying the name of the play inside a theatre. I can make sure they are well trained by hiring the best fight choreographer – which I did when Kristen Mun agreed to be on the team.
(AM) What was your first introduction to Shakespeare, and what kind of an impact did it have on you?
(MP) My first introduction to Shakespeare performance was junior year of high school. I grew up in MN, and my high school competed in the annual One Act festival, and that particular year we did a One Act cutting of Romeo and Juliet where I played Friar Lawrence. It was sort of a “Greatest Hits” of the actual show – hitting all the important parts. It was also done with the concept that it was a chess game – R&J were pawns, the lords and ladies were kings and queens, I was a bishop – etc. We performed on a giant raked chessboard and could only move like our piece – so I could only move in diagonals. It was interesting, weird, super fun, and gave me a lifelong appreciation for Shakespeare and the many ways he can come to the stage.
(AM) Can you tell us a little bit about how the supernatural elements in your production of Macbeth will be handled?
(MP) I wish I could. I am still figuring that out with lots of help from our amazing costume designer DeeDee Remington. We’re trying to find a concept that goes well with the world of the play and stays within budget – which is harder than you think!! The important thing is that it fits within the world of these characters – it can’t pull us (the audience) out of the world or it will jar us entirely out the play and we will start paying attention to the many distractions that happen outside…
(AM) You are known for, in addition to being a wonderful director, also a fine actor. What Shakespeare play is your favorite to watch, and which is your favorite to perform in?
(MP) First of all – thank you so much!!
Currently my favorite to watch is Henry IV Part 1. There is something so great about the storyline that brings Hal to maturity through the many possible pitfalls he faces – especially when contrasted with Hotspur and his story.
My favorite to perform in? I have had a lot of fun with the roles I have had so far (Falstaff, Friar Lawrence, Abhorson, Stephano, and some I am sure I am forgetting). I think I would like a chance to play Falstaff again, but this time in Merry Wives of Windsor. At some point, I would love to play Prospero – I think I have a really good Prospero in me…
(AM) How do you develop the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth? Is theirs a happy marriage?
(MP) I think that Mac and Lady M have a great marriage – which is not to say they don’t have problems, but that they genuinely care for each other and want the best for each other. Which might be why Lady M makes him to take the throne – it’s the best thing that could happen to him. Which is why he truly regrets her death – it was the worst thing. If she had stuck around, everything could [in theory] get better again.
To develop their relationship will be one of the hardest parts of the rehearsal process. I need to find actors that genuinely care for each both onstage and off, and that can also be a convincing married couple with everything that entails. Wish me luck.
(AM) How did you arrive at the style for this production of Macbeth? The time period? The world of the play?
(MP) I have a pretty firm belief that we should trust Shakespeare, so I tend to set the play during the time period of the action unless there is a really strong reason not to. For this play we will be in 11th century Scotland. Which lets us believe in witches, have Kings, wear amazing costumes, and have some pretty cool violence.
(AM) What attracted you to directing this play?
(MP) Several things attracted me to the play – first it’s MACBETH. I mean come on…
Second – I have always liked and believed in the mission of PAE. It was the first company I acted for in Portland (way back 2008 in Two Gentleman of Verona) which gives them a special place in my heart, and also they do something that very few other people do – they give away art. They support the people and neighborhoods of the Portland area, and in turn are supported by them.
Third – the play will be performed IN A GRAVEYARD. Again – come on…how awesome is that??
(AM) Briefly describe your rehearsal process—how do you get from the first table ready to opening night in a short rehearsal time frame?
(MP) Briefly? Uh.. ok.. umm.. we all get together. We read the play and figure out what the heck we are saying. We jump up and try to move in a way that makes sense for a person and for the play, then we add in all the cool stuff (costumes, fights, props) and try to make it work outside.
But seriously – the rehearsal process is for the actors and me to get together and try to make sure we give the audience the best possible experience and performance of this script. We spend a lot of time making sure that every word makes sense, and every action supports and is supported by the text. We go over it as many time as we can so that the actors are comfortable and ready to bring the audience along on the ride that is MacB.
(AM) When working on a play like Macbeth, how do you generate ideas? What process do you go through?
(MP) I do a freakish amount of planning. I read and re-read and re-read the script. I plan props, blocking, costumes, costume changes. I research words and ideas. I read the play again. I second, third, and fourth guess myself. I hire amazing, wonderful, talented people. And then when I think I know it all, I get the actors and designers in a rehearsal room and they show me all of the many brilliant things I could never have dreamed. I guess you could say I over-prepare and then am willing to throw it all away for better ideas.
(AM) Is there anything else you’d like to add that I’ve not asked? Please do so!
(MP) The real secret of the theater – it is not about the words or the actors or the sets or lights – it is about the audience. Without people who are willing to sit and listen to words filled with wisdom and emotion and laughter and pain, none of this could happen. Luckily PAE has the best audiences in Portland, and I look forward to sharing this amazing journey with them.
Thank you, Matthew!
Actors–this weekend Portland Actors Ensemble will be holding auditions for both of our 2015 Summer productions of Macbeth and The Taming of the Shrew. Auditions will be held on Saturday, January 31st and Sunday, February 1st from 1-4pm on both days by appointment only. Please bring 2 headshots and resumes if you are auditioning for both, 1 headshot and resume for auditioning for a specific show. Prepare up to two minutes of classical monolgue(s). Musicians are encouraged to audition as well. Please bring an instrument and be ready to play/sing. Auditions will be held at Concordia University, Fine Arts Building, corner of NE 27th Ave and NE Highland St. For more information and to schedule an audition time, please contact Patrick J. Cox, Operations Director, 503-729-4511,
Portland Actors Ensemble’s 2015 Outdoor Summer Twilight Tragedy of Macbeth will play from June 18-July 25 in the Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery in SE Portland, and the 2015 Summer Touring production of The Taming of the Shrew, directed by Patrick Walsh, will play from July 11-September 7 throughout the Portland metro area. Please watch our website for more specific schedule information, dates and times of all performances.
We hope to see you in the audience this summer!
Have any questions about Macbeth? We’d love to hear about it down in the comments, so feel free to stop by and say hi!
Till next time,
Take pains; be perfect; adieu!Athena McElrath is an actor and singer who is also a Board member with Portland Actor’s Ensemble. She helps PAE with social media and educational outreach. She often works onstage with her husband, K.J. McElrath, in their cabaret act, called McElrath Cabaret, which features songs from classic Broadway, Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley. For more: http://mcelrathcabaret.com/