This weekend, a student-written play will tackle school shootings through the tried-and-true story of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”
“McDeath: An American Play,” written and directed by Brittany Menjivar ’21, tells the story of a high school senior, Cory McBeth, grappling with his place within his school’s social hierarchy.
Menjivar was inspired to write an adaptation of “Macbeth” after reading the play in her seventh grade English class. Her reading of the great tragedy happened to coincide with a real-life tragedy: the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14, 2012. Yet, Menjivar did not start writing her own script until the fall of 2017 during her first semester at Yale.
“As an aspiring writer, I constantly daydreamed about potential “Macbeth” adaptations,” Menjivar said. “As an American student, I never stopped thinking about school shootings.”
Menjivar began writing the piece with the intent of submitting the play to the 2017 Yale Playwrights Festival, which culminates in a staged reading. But Menjivar ultimately decided to apply for a Creative and Performing Arts grant instead, in order to present a full production of her script. Menjivar and producer Chayton Pabich ’21 attempted to produce the show last semester but found they needed more time to organize logistics and casting.
Menjivar’s play takes place in 1999. Its protagonist, Cory, is a social outcast jealous of his more popular peers. After receiving recognition for a small act of heroism, Cory receives an invitation to a party. When he finally gets this opportunity to fit in with his desired crowd, he throws it away by accidentally killing one of his classmates. The tragedy continues when the characters face even more violence in the form of a school shooting.
“I will always support the creation of art that challenges people to confront difficult realities because they are real and must be dealt with at the end of the day,” Menjivar said. She continued that she does “not believe” McDeath glorifies violence or school shootings in any way.
Despite its demanding subject matter, there is little Yale theater experience among the cast and crew. Aside from adapting “Alice in Wonderland” for a high school production, “McDeath” marks Menjivar’s first playwriting and directing experience. Pabich founded a community theater troupe in high school but has not produced at Yale. Seven of the 10 cast members, including Menjivar herself, will make their Yale theater debuts in McDeath.
The group enlisted the help of a professional to navigate the sensitive topics the play addresses. Scenes depicting violence were choreographed by Yale School of Drama lecturer Michael Rossmy, who staged the violent scenes for a Broadway production of “A Tale of Two Cities.”
Menjivar said there will be talkbacks with the cast and crew following each performance.
“I want this show to be a conversation with the audience rather than a lecture,” she said. “I’m ready to hear what my fellow students want to say.”
“McDeath: An American Play” will show in the Lighten Theater this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with an additional 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday.
Lindsay Daugherty | firstname.lastname@example.org