A new play in Denver is exploring ‘Macbeth’ from the female perspective

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From left, Anne Penner, Hadley Kamminga-Peck and Mare Trevathan pose backstage as the trio prepare to rehearse for “Undone: The Lady M Project.”

When Anne Penner started to dig into the story of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” something struck her. What if we saw more about Lady Macbeth, not just the story told from the point of view of the assassin and usurper king?

Writers, actors, and audiences alike often relish in the chance to dig into a new take on the “Scottish Play." Now Boulder-based Local Theater Company is presenting a new take on one of Shakespeare’s iconic female characters. 

“Undone: The Lady M Project” was written by a triad of women: Hadley Kamminga-Peck joined Mare Trevathan, who also directs this premiere production, and Penner, who also plays the titular character on trial for her actions in the original story. 

“Our play ruptures the original one, picking up near the end of Shakespeare's play and then doing all sorts of things with story and time and location after that,” Penner said.

Work on the project began in 2019 when Penner started unpacking the meaning behind the scenes of Macbeth that featured Lady Macbeth. Penner says the idea came from a frustration that there are so many female characters in Shakespeare's plays, living inside fascinating circumstances, who do not get the amount of text — or the stage time — the male characters do. 

Trevathan says COVID pandemic shutdowns influenced the writing process, and like many others during the pandemic, the creators used tools like Zoom and Google Docs to collaborate remotely.

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Anne Penner, left, speaks with Mare Trevathan during rehearsal for "Undone: The Lady M Project."

“We would come together and we would read and discuss, and sometimes we would set a timer and go away for half an hour and each work on a particular section and come back and share our findings,” Trevathan said.

Penner said there were some elements from the readings she loved that the trio kept, like the reading of some stage directions.

“There were some lines that I loved, and some of them have remained where we explain the stage. We speak stage directions. So I take his hand, I give him some wine, that sort of thing, which we've removed some of that,” said Penner. “But there's a few instances where we've kept it because we feel like that reporting on the actions that took place or the activity that took place in the past event is useful to our storytelling, to our live storytelling. 

Local Theater Company’s Local Lab — which brings playwrights and audiences together to help develop plays — was critical to the development of “Undone”, including hosting virtual and in-person workshops. 

Kamminga-Peck, who also serves as the assistant director and intimacy choreographer, said there are moments in the play that explore some of Lady M's past that require an intimate focus. 

“And so it has been helpful, I think, for everyone in the room just to know that there's somebody in the room who's keeping an eye on that, who's ready to step in and help.” 

While Local Theater produces works primarily in Boulder, they also produce work around Colorado. After hosting an in-person reading of the play during Local Lab at the Savoy in Denver, the cast and crew grew a special attachment to the venue.

“We did fall in love with this space and the people who run it, when we were here in March of 2020 performing for the lab,” Trevathan said. “There was a particular moment in our very simple staging, for the lab where we pull back the curtain and expose just part of the bones of this building, and the audience gasped. It's so lovely. There's such beautiful character. And the history of this building and this neighborhood was important to us too, that it felt like we could present this play in a place that had a welcome mat for everybody.”

Local Theater Company’s productions of “Undone — The Lady M” Project plays at the Savoy  through March 25.

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Anne Penner rehearses with other cast members for "Undone: The Lady M Project."