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Black Swan Theatre takes Shakespeare outdoors to Lewis & Clark State Park

Troupe to stage 'Macbeth' Sept. 2 through Sept. 4

From fairytales like “Little Red Riding Hood” to movies like “The Blair Witch Project,” dark forests have long been the setting for scary stories and painful lessons learned.

So Black Swan Theatre decided the best way to present one of William Shakespeare’s most frightening, tragic plays is outside.

The theater troupe will stage “Macbeth,” the story of a Scottish king almost driven mad by his bloody ascent to the throne, in Lewis & Clark State Park, 1 Jordan Road, Troutdale, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, Sept. 2-4.PHOTO COURTESY OF ROBERT ROUTSON - Blake Dunbar and Ellie Leach play Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in Black Swan Theatres latest production.

Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for students, and the play is recommended for patrons 6 and older, given its scary content.

Susan Scott, Black Swan’s artistic director, says “Macbeth” is filled with the kind of scenes a wooded setting can best enhance, from witches foretelling the future to a ghost reminding Macbeth of his assassin past, which includes murdering Scottish King Duncan after his wife prodded him to do so.

“ ‘Macbeth’ should be done in the dark, and I think when it’s done outside it evokes the tone of darkness,” she says. “It just seems a fitting environment for this story.”

That notion is echoed by Ellie Leach, 18, an incoming freshman at Southern Oregon University, who plays Lady Macbeth, Macbeth’s wife.

“It’s a really scary play,” the Barlow High School graduate says. “It’s holding up a mirror to ourselves. Shakespeare is not writing about monsters — he’s writing about humans.”

Mallory Spanjer, 23, an assistant teacher at Lewis & Clark Montessori Public Charter School in Damascus, plays one of the three witches who foretell that Macbeth will be Scotland’s king. Like Scott and Leach, she thinks staging the play in a wooded area is ideal.

“I hope that having it outside will give it a rugged feel,” she says, noting the witches are key to Macbeth’s frightening tone. “I like that sort of eerie foreboding feeling that they give the play,” she says.

Marriage made in hell

Blake Dunbar, 18, a graduate of Clackamas High School who plays Macbeth, says his character “goes a little mad, and it’s due to the fact that he can’t deal with what he’s done.

“He feels he can’t be forgiven, he can’t be accepted,” Dunbar says. “I feel as though he knows he could choose to change, but he almost chooses to be mad. That’s part of why he’s so crazy, because he put himself in a spot.”PHOTO COURTESY OF ROBERT ROUTSON - From left: Mallory Spanjer, Josie Lattin and Annalee Nock play the witches who foretell Macbeths bloody rise and fall.

Speaking of spots, Lady Macbeth utters some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines when she cries “Out damned spot! Out” as she sleepwalks, seemingly tormented by the regicide her husband committed.

Leach says at first she thought Lady Macbeth was simply evil but as she’s learned her role, she’s come up with a different view of the woman and her husband.

“I think this is almost, in a sick way, a love story,” she says of “Macbeth.” “She’s doing it all for him.”

Leach says she enjoys working with Dunbar, but adds that some scenes, including the famous sleepwalking scene, can be challenging.

“It’s so dark and scary, and in order to get the truth behind it … you have to scream and yell,” she says. “It’s kind of an out-of-body experience.”