Reading Series: The Fall of Lady M by Michael Perlmutter
It's our Fifth Annual Reading Series: "Seeing Shakespeare's Women!" Learn more about our playwright, Michael Perlmutter! And grab your tickets for our August 10th reading.
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I am a member of the new minority ‘white straight christian male 60.’ I generally detest labels and have no respect for 45 whatsoever (nor his minions). I graduated from CalArts back before we had car phones let alone cell phones. Married, to the same woman for forty years. Three great kids, all living minutes away, so I guess we did something right that they didn’t run across the country as soon as they could, so there’s that. Too many friggin' pets, though my cat recently died. Been writing when I can since 2010. Before that I focused on doing right by the family. What else you wanna know? Ah, that’s enough.
2) What inspired you to write The Fall of Lady M?
Today’s political landscape. And the challenge to look at the story from Lady M’s POV. Her character has such a great arc and open to so many interpretations. I also wanted to see if the story could be told without the supernatural elements of the original. Witches in 11th century fell into two categories. Dark Witches were the evil spells, Halloween and the like but White Witches were basically purveyors of herbs and medicines for common folk who might never see a doctor. I wanted to focus the sisters on this path. And then I took that a step farther by making the weird sisters not only medical suppliers but users as well. This made a great contrast to Lady M’s voracious drive for power (the sisters laid back and just get high personae). So from there I improvised but made sure to follow the time line and events of the original play intact. I looked into the history of the real; Lord and Lady MacBeth (and yes, they actually did exist) and found that Shakespeare had taken several liberties with their story so I made a conscience effort to follow Shakespeare’s tale. In fact every unique moment of this script (and I won’t spoil them here by pointing them out) are actually borne from The Bard’s script. So, it was fun. At the same time I felt compelled to stay true to telling a tale of absolute power corrupting absolutely.
3) You've written this play for all women. How did that decision come about? How did that stretch or inform you as a playwright?
OK, I guess you had to ask that one. My flippant answer would be, “Why not?” The Bard’s play is ultimately about the men and the women (yes, even Lady M) serve to further the man’s story. I gave myself, and I enjoyed, the challenge to tell the story from the woman’s point of view. I also realized that if I included a man in even one scene it would immediately change the dynamics of the relationships in the play. I also tried to insert the Bechdel test but found so many times that the topic sex became part of the scene, interestingly enough mostly as a tool of power plays. Don’t know what that says about me but it was interesting to note all the same.
4) You've chosen a very different musical style from Shakespeare to explore that text. Tell us a little bit about how you "hear" the play.
I’ve never been as fan of verse or heightened language (which surprised me when you chose my play but what the hey, you did and we’re here). I honestly wish that Shakespeare didn’t rhyme. When I hear the syncopatic rhythms and especially the rhyme it pulls me out of what is an otherwise great story. I understand this was how plays were written in his day and no one pulls it off better then Shakespeare but if he were writing today I feel pretty confident Will wouldn’t bother looking for what rhymes with Denmark. You ask how I “hear” the play and I would have to say it is more Chekhovian in nature. Maybe a little Albee-esque or even (dare I say) Mamet / probably better to say Tracy Letts, hunh? Or Sarah Rule. I’m, a biog fan of Sharr White too. I would hope you would hear this play with thewir ears. But moreover this story should be felt. Sensed. There is soooooooo much in the silences and things unsaid. The juxtaposition of constant movement on stage and quiet stillness.
5) How has your Christianity informed your art?
Great question and the obvious answer would be I think my faith always seeps into everything I write. I think your real question is "how did ..." and to that I would be in choosing to portray the hypocritical aspect of Lady M. The true moral high ground that Lady MacDuff resonates without cloaking herself in scripture. The story of Esther and the medieval structure to the same story and of course the teachings of the Holy Father being filtered to present a very male POV. Lastly, and I think most clearly is the sacrifice made by both Agnes and Vanessa for "such a time as this." Don't know if that answers your question but for me my faith and it's different aspects are painted all across the play.
6) What have you learned about the show over the course of the play's development?
A little bit of everything. I’ve had collaborators embrace the new concepts of these individual as well as those unwilling to break from their traditional visions of these characters and everything in between. I am still looking to mount that first production (blatant hint) and from there I think we’ll be able to glean even more.
7) Anything else you'd like to add?
Michael Perlmutter (